Two of the finest guards in pro basketball will be changing uniforms next season as the result of a major trade. Phoenix dealt Paul Westphal to Seattle for Dennis Johnson, a swap that should benefit both of the National Basketball Association's Pacific Division rivals.
Neither player was particularly happy where he was, yet each has a lot to offer his new club. Westphal is one of the finest-shooting guards in league history, judging by his .514 career field goal percentage. Johnson, meanwhile, had been a liability in this department, connecting at a .422 clip last season, the lowest of any NBA starting guard. What Johnson's acquisition gives the Suns is more rebounding strength and defense, areas in which Westphal does not particularly excel. Johnson once blocked seven shots in a single championship series game, but shot 0-for-14 in the decisive, seventh game against the Washington Bullets two years ago. Last year, when Seattle beat Washington, he was named MVP of the finals.
Westphal felt inhibited by Coach John McLeod's highly structured offense at Phoenix, and Johnson had begun to be labeled "moody" around Seattle. So both players move on happily in what's considered virtually an even-up trade. A rare 'Bird' indeed
Magic Johnson was so dazzling during pro basketball's playoffs that some fans momentarily forgot about Larry Bird, the game's other rookie superstar.
But just this week, Bird achieved an honor few have ever attained -- selection as a rookie to the NBA's all-league first team. Wes Unseld last did it in 1968-69, when he also captured Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, a distinction he shares only with Wilt Chamberlain.
Bird won this season's Rookie of the Year voting in a landslide, outballoting Johnson by a 63-3 margin, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic's Los Angeles teammate, secured his sixth MVP award.
Bird would be the last person to take all the credit for Boston's rags-to-riches turnaround, but certainly he was the central cog. General Manager Red Auerbach said as much earlier this week when he called Larry close to indispensable -- a status Auerbach didn't bestow on any other Celtic, not even center Dave cowens.
Joining Larry at forward on the NBA's first team is Philadelphia's Julius Erving. Rounding out the first unit are center Abdul- Jabbar and guards George Gervin of San antonio and Paul Westphal, just traded from Phoenix to Seattle. The second team consists of Atlanta's Dan Roundfield, Milwaukee's Marques Johnson, Houston's Moses Malone, Seattle's Gus Williams, and Dennis Johnson, sent to Phoenix from Seattle in the Westphal trade. Magic Johnson was the fifth-highest vote-getter among guards.