The 60th NBA season begins this week with two venerable mainstays of the league in the stands. Washington's Abe Pollin, who begins his 42nd season as an owner, will be on hand Saturday night when the Wizards play their first home game at MCI Center. Three nights earlier, Red Auerbach will be at Boston's TD Banknorth Garden when his Celtics host the New York Knicks.
Regardless of what happens on the court this season, both Pollin and Auerbach have to consider their seasons a success just by being in the stands.
Pollin, 81, is recovering from heart bypass surgery in July and gets to his downtown office several times a week. He'll be in attendance when the Wizards, who last spring won their first playoff series in 23 years, play Orlando. "I'm getting stronger each day, even though I'm very impatient. But I wouldn't miss Saturday night," he said.
Pollin, along with Lamar Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs and Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills, is among the senior owners in U.S. pro sports. "It's a major part of my life," Pollin said of owning the Wizards and MCI Center. "It's going to be difficult to top what we accomplished last season, but we've added three proven pros [Caron Butler, Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins]. I also expect our defense to be improved and Gilbert [Arenas] and Antawn [Jamison] to be better with another year of experience."
Auerbach, 88, a Washingtonian for much of his life and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was in Sibley Memorial Hospital for more than a month this summer because of complications following surgery to remove his cancerous colon. But his recovery at his Northwest Washington apartment the past two weeks has been so dramatic he said he "plans" to make good on a promise that he would be in Boston for the opener for the Celtics, who he coached and ran for more than half a century. "We're very young, but we'll be competitive," he said.
Dress Code for Fans
While there are some good story lines leading up to the start of the NBA season (Kobe and Phil together again, Larry Brown to the Knicks, Miami's cup runneth over, etc.), the biggest is the controversial NBA dress code for players announced last week by Commissioner David Stern.
The dress code mandates that players wear business casual clothing while engaged in team or league business. They cannot wear sleeveless shirts, shorts, T-shirts and jerseys and sports apparel unless team-related, or wear chains, pendants or medallions over clothing.
That said, isn't it fair that fans be required to follow a similar standard? I asked several professionals in the clothing business for their thoughts:
James Colen, owner of James Clothiers at Tysons Galleria: "It's most important to just look neat and respectable, whether you are wearing a white T-shirt or Paul and Shark polo shirt, or a shirt by Lorenzini or Zegna, buttoned or open collar. Dress jeans are okay, but no cut-offs. And no jerseys for the other team. Also, no suits, ties or suspenders, unless you're in a suite."
Judi Lewis, former fashion consultant to Wilbon: "Nice shirt, maybe a Ted Baker, jeans with belts, socks and positively no logo shirts. Business casual in the suites. For women: slacks, skirts or designer jeans but no shorts or low-cut blouses."
And for the commissioner? "He's got to be more flamboyant," said Lewis. Added Colen: "Lose the blue button-down shirt and start wearing Zegna suits."
Chains and pendants on fans? "Only in Miami," said Colen.
For sportswriters? I recommend the Feinstein Collection, available at fine men's stores everywhere.
A run of excellent books about heavyweight boxers including Jeremy Schaap's "Cinderella Man" -- the story of James J. Braddock -- and the recently published "The Greatest Fight of Our Generation: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling" by Lewis Erenberg, has injected some interest (at least on my couch) in the division. So has the Nov. 12 title fight between World Boxing Council champion Vitali Klitschko and Hasim Rahman of Baltimore in Las Vegas. Klitschko, 34, from Kiev, Ukraine, has a 35-2 record with 34 knockouts; Rahman is 41-5-1 with 33 KOs.
The fight is being promoted by Bob Arum, who put on a number of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fights but hasn't been involved with heavyweights for more than a decade. "The heavyweight division was loaded with talent 40 years ago," said Arum, 73, in a telephone interview the other day. "Before football and basketball began paying large salaries, big guys went into boxing. That isn't the case now; and why the lesser weight divisions have produced such great fighters. Klitschko could have competed 40 years ago. He's huge [6 feet 8] and has a good punch. Rahman also is athletic and punches well."
Arum, who has been in the boxing business for more than 40 years and a competitor of Don King forever, calls both Klitschko and Rahman "hard" men. Hard is Arum's way of saying a fighter has courage. Marvin Hagler, said Arum, was a "hard" man. "So was Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran."
We'll see if Arum is right; and we'll watch because we liked the books.
Our own soap opera continues here with LaVar finally getting his chance last Sunday against the Joe Montana-led 49ers (oh, Joe doesn't play anymore?) and making nine tackles but running past two of their guys who ran for touchdowns. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Freddy Adu was punished by Coach Peter Nowak and not permitted to play with his friends in Chicago last Friday. But Freddy seems to be behaving this week and Nowak may let him play today at RFK against Chicago in a game defending MLS champion D.C. United needs to win to advance in the playoffs.
The din for LaVar at FedEx Field is pulsating. Reminds me of Riggo and Jurgy in their day -- only louder. Even makes me think of Sugar Ray and Ali bouncing into the ring for a big fight. It's cool. Do coaches ever become jealous of their players? Nah.
And has Mark Brunell taken the high road with those (including me) who said and wrote last year he was finished?
Sale of Nationals may get done by Nov. 14 owners meeting, unless:
* Jerry Reinsdorf goes on an around-the-world cruise to celebrate his White Sox winning World Series.
* Bud Selig is indicted in Houston for not closing the roof over Minute Maid Park last week.
* Peter Angelos, still refusing to accept existence of the Nationals, demands 99 percent of all TV revenue from the Nats (he gets 90 percent). The Golf Channel, meanwhile, announced it has a deal with Angelos-owned MASN and will televise Nats games that can be viewed only at Congressional Country Club.
Have a comment or question? Reach me at Talkback@washpost.com.