There are a number of reasons why the National Basketball Assn. is enjoying a boom period. For one thing, pro basketball is fast-paced. For another, almost every team has at least one player worth the price of admission.
Maybe most important, it is an easy sport in which to turn a team around. With only five players, an addition here, or a subtraction there, can change the direction of a club in a hurry.
A year ago, the Knicks trailed the Celtics by 16 games in the Atlantic Division. After Mark Jackson and Patrick Ewing led the Knicks to a 122-110 victory, a club record 21st in a row at home, the Knicks lead the Celtics by 11 1/2 games.
For the Celtics, the dominant force in the East since Larry Bird joined them in 1979, it has been mostly subtraction. True, they showed signs of wear and tear in the playoffs, but it was not until Bird, their superstar, went out shortly after the start of this season that the Celtics turned from good to mediocre.
The Knicks' fortunes soared with the maturity of Jackson, Ewing and other youngsters and the acquisition of power forward and tough rebounder Charles Oakley.
The Celtics are hoping that Bird, who had surgery to repair both Achilles tendons, will return this week. Even with Bird, it is not likely the Celtics can handle the new-look Knicks.
Rick Pitino, a successful college coach in the East, took over the Knicks before last season after the Knicks were 24-58 in 1986-87. He inherited Ewing, a 7-foot center who was mostly a disappointment in his two pro seasons, and built a team. They improved to 38-44 last season and have the fourth best record in the league and are talking championship.
Ewing has become the best offensive center in the league. Jackson, playmaker and key man on the pressing defense, is becoming a star.
Ewing had 26 points, 13 rebounds and blocked seven shots as the Knicks went to the front early and maintained a good lead most of the way. When the Celtics threatened, Jackson scored 10 points in the last quarter to make victory safe. He finished with 28 points and 11 assists.
Their newest player, Kiki Vandeweghe, watched in street clothes. Pitino said he will bring the sharpshooter from UCLA along slowly in hopes he will be a factor in the playoffs.
The Celtics, starting already to revamp their team, played newcomers Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney for the first time. Both came from Sacramento in the Danny Ainge deal.
Kleine, a backup center, played 12 minutes and had nine points. Pinckney, a forward, played 21 minutes and had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Although he was only 10 for 25 from the field, Reggie Lewis led the Celtics (25-29) with 22 points.
Indiana 128, Utah 89--It's no wonder Frank Layden gave up coaching the Jazz. They are an enigma.
Last Wednesday at Salt Lake City they humiliated the Lakers, beating them by 26 points. In the first two games of a six-game trip they have lost by a total of 58 points.
A 19-point loss at Denver is bad enough, but 39 at Indianapolis against one of the weakest non-expansion teams in the league?
Rik Smits and Chuck Person each had 10 points in a 42-point third quarter to lead the Pacers to their straight second win after 12 consecutive defeats.
Karl Malone, No. 2 scorer in the league with an average just under 30 points, failed to lead Utah. He was four for 11 and had only 14 points and two rebounds.
Denver 122, Philadelphia 115--Bill Hanzlik, one of the best defensive players in the NBA, is finally recovered from a back injury that has sidelined him most of the season.
The loss gave the 76ers a 2-2 record on a trip that reached the halfway point.
Fat Lever had a triple-double--16 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists--and Alex English had 31 points for Denver.
Drexler had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Friday in a loss at Cleveland he had 18 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.