1979-80 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transactions

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1979-80 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transactions

Postby MCT » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:19 pm

This is the fourth of a series of threads analyzing games played, games started and transactions for the 1979-80 season. Before reading any further, see the introductory thread below:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=5945

HOUSTON ROCKETS

SEASON OVERVIEW

The Rockets had a 41-41 record. They finished in a tie with the Spurs for the second-best record in the Central Division. The two teams were tied for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, but under tiebreaker rules the Rockets won the #4 seed in the playoffs.

In the First Round, the Rockets defeated the Spurs 2-1. They then lost to the Celtics 4-0 in the Conference Semifinals. The Rockets played a total of 7 playoff games.

This was the Rockets’ final season in the Central Division and Eastern Conference. As part of a realignment for the 1980-81 season, the Rockets were shifted to the Midwest Division and Western Conference. They had been members of the Central Division and Eastern Conference since the 1972-73 season.

The Rockets used 15 different players for the season, four above the minimum. One additional player was on the team’s roster during the season, but was never on the active roster, and did not appear in any games.
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Re: 1979-80 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby MCT » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:21 pm

PART I - ROSTER AND TRANSACTIONS

OPENING NIGHT ROSTER

Rick Barry
Alonzo Bradley
*Jacky Dorsey
Mike Dunleavy
Tom Henderson
Dwight Jones
Major Jones
*Allen Leavell
Moses Malone
*Paul Mokeski
Calvin Murphy
Robert Reid
Rudy Tomjanovich
Rudy White

*placed on injured list 10/11/79

IN-SEASON TRANSACTIONS

In the list below, anything which is underlined is the subject of discrepancies or guesswork.

10/22/79 – Placed Mike Dunleavy on the injured list; activated Allen Leavell from the injured list.

11/7/79 – Waived Rudy White; signed John Shumate as a free agent.

11/12/79 – Waived Jacky Dorsey.

11/27/79 – Placed Rudy Tomjanovich on the injured list; activated Paul Mokeski from the injured list.

11/28/79 – Activated Mike Dunleavy from the injured list; waived Dwight Jones.

12/7/79 – Activated Rudy Tomjanovich from the injured list; placed Tom Henderson on the injured list.

12/21/79 – Activated Tom Henderson from the injured list; placed John Shumate on the injured list.

1/2/80 – Activated John Shumate from the injured list; placed Paul Mokeski on the injured list.

1/17/80 – Traded John Shumate, a 1980 3rd round pick, and cash to the Spurs for Billy Paultz.

Note: the Rockets finished the season with 12 players on their roster. Paul Mokeski appears to have been on the injured list as of the end of the regular season, and remained inactive for the playoffs.

NOTES/DISCREPANCIES

Injured list transactions:

Jacky Dorsey, Allen Leavell, and Paul Mokeski started the season on the injured list. The Rockets placed them on the IL on 10/11/79, the day before the start of the regular season. This was reported in the transactions column in the following day’s Globe.

On 10/22/79, the Rockets placed Mike Dunleavy on the IL, and activated Allen Leavell. This was reported in the transactions column in the following day’s Globe. These moves occurred following the Rockets’ fifth game of the season, which was the earliest any of the players who started the season on the IL could have been activated.

On 11/12/79, the Rockets waived Jacky Dorsey. This was reported in the transactions column in the following day’s Globe. Dorsey had been on the IL all season up to this point; he was never activated, and never appeared in any games. This dropped the number of players the Rockets had on the IL from three down to two.

While I have no documentation of this, the Rockets must have placed Rudy Tomjanovich on the IL effective with either the game on 11/24/79, or the game on 11/27/79. I have documentation that Tomjanovich was activated on 12/7 (see below), so he has to have been placed on the injured list at some point before that. Tomjanovich did not play in the Rockets’ six games immediately prior to 12/7. Players placed on the IL were required to miss five games before they could be activated again. Tomjanovich therefore must have been placed on the injured list effective with either the first of those six games (11/24), or the second (11/27). When Tomjanovich was placed on the IL, the Rockets must have activated Paul Mokeski. Mokeski had started the season on the injured list, but he played in his first game of the season on 11/28.

On 11/28/79, the Rockets activated Mike Dunleavy from the IL. To make room on the active roster, they waived Dwight Jones. These moves were reported in the transactions column in the following day’s Globe. This dropped the number of players the Rockets had on the IL from two down to one. The Rockets played a game on 11/28; these moves were definitely made before that game was played, as Dunleavy played in the game.

On 12/7/79, the Rockets placed Tom Henderson on the IL, and activated Rudy Tomjanovich. This was reported in the transactions column in the following day’s Globe. The Rockets played a game on 12/7; these moves were definitely made before that game was played, as Tomjanovich played in the game.

On 12/21/79, the Rockets placed John Shumate on the IL, and activated Tom Henderson. This was reported in the transactions column in the following day’s Globe. The Rockets played a game on 12/21; these moves were definitely made before that game was played, as Henderson played in the game.

While I have no documentation of this, the Rockets must have activated John Shumate effective with the game on 1/2/80. Shumate had been placed on the IL on 12/21 (see above), but he returned to action on 1/2, so must have been activated by the time the game on 1/2 was played. Players placed on the IL were required to miss five games before they could be activated again, and Shumate was absent from exactly five games between his last appearance before going on the IL and his appearance on 1/2. So the game on 1/2 has to have been Shumate’s first game back on the active roster. When Shumate was activated, the Rockets appear to have placed Paul Mokeski on the IL. I have no documentation of this, but Mokeski did not appear in any games after 12/26, and it seems pretty clear that he wasn’t on the active roster during the second half of the season. I have found no evidence that Mokeski was ever waived, or otherwise ceased to be a member of the Rockets, during this period, so I am assuming that he was on the injured list. (Note that Mokeski had also been on the IL earlier in the season.) Mokeski was still with the Rockets in training camp in the fall of 1980, but was ultimately traded to the Pistons before the start of the 1980-81 season.

Billy Paultz-John Shumate trade:

Most sources indicate that the Rockets sent the Spurs a 3rd round pick and cash as part of this trade, but not all sources mention both the pick and the cash.

Those that mention both the pick and the cash include the transactions column in the following day’s Globe, Shumate’s entry in the NBA Register, the Rockets Media Guide, pst.com, and one of three places the trade is mentioned in the Spurs Media Guide (Paultz’ entry in the “Former Spurs” player register section).

Two other places in the Spurs Media Guide (the “All-Time Transactions” section and Shumate’s entry in the Former Spurs section) omit the pick and mention the cash only.

Two sources omit the cash and mention the pick only. These are b-r.com and Paultz’ entry in the NBA Register.
Last edited by MCT on Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1979-80 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby MCT » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:22 pm

PART II – GAMES STARTED

REGULAR SEASON

MEDIA GUIDE

The 2017-18 Rockets Media Guide has regular season games started stats going back to the 1971-72 season, the franchise’s first year in Houston. For 1979-80, the media guide shows the following:

Malone 82
Murphy 75
Reid 54
Henderson 51
Tomjanovich 50
Leavell 31
Barry 28
Paultz 21
Jones 11
Dunleavy 7

TSN BOX SCORES

All but two of the TSN box scores for the 1979-80 Rockets appear to list the players in “starters first” F-F-C-G-G order. The two exceptions were for the games on 10/17/79 and 3/22/80.

--In the 10/17/79 box score, the players on both teams (Rockets and Pacers) are clearly listed in descending order of points scored.

--In the 3/22/80 box score, the first five players listed look like the regular starters, but with a couple of names out of order (Tom Henderson is shown in the C slot, Moses Malone in a G slot).

The game on 10/17 was the Rockets’ fourth game of the season. For at least the first 21 games of the season, the starters at four positions were consistently the same in every other game (Malone, Reid, Murphy, Henderson). During the same time period, the remaining starting slot was usually occupied by Rudy Tomjanovich, but there were a number of games Tomjanovich didn’t play in. All of those games were started by Rick Barry instead. The game on 10/17 was the third game in a four-game stretch when Tomjanovich didn’t play. The other three games in this stretch, including the games before and after the one on 10/17, were started by Barry. Based on that, I would expect the starters in the 10/17 game to have been Malone, Reid, Barry, Murphy and Henderson.

The game on 3/22 fell during a period when the Rockets were consistently starting the first five players who appear in the box score (Paultz, Reid, Henderson, Malone, Murphy). This was the Rockets’ sixth-to-last game of the regular season. With one exception, everyone in that group of players had started at least the four previous games, would start all five of the remaining games in the regular season, and would continue to start into the playoffs. The exception is that Murphy hadn’t started the Rockets’ previous game on 3/20, because he didn’t play in that game. Based on that, I would have expected those five players to start the game on 3/22.

If we assume that 1) the game on 10/17 was started by the same five players who started the surrounding games; and 2) the first five players listed in the 3/22 box score were the starters, at their usual positions; then the games started totals for all players are in agreement with those in the Rockets Media Guide, except for the discrepancies noted below.

NOTES/DISCREPANCIES

After making the above assumptions, there are two discrepancies between the Rockets Media Guide and the TSN boxes, involving two games and four players. First, the media guide indicates that Tom Henderson started 51 games, and Allan Leavell 31. The TSN box scores suggest that Henderson started 50 games, and Leavell 32. Second, the media guide indicates that Rudy Tomjanovich started 50 games, and Major Jones 11. The TSN box scores suggest that Tomjanovich started 49 games, and Jones 12.

In both cases, identifying the specific game that is the source of the discrepancy is not an exact science. Because it isn’t, I don’t actually know for certain that the same game is at the root of the discrepancies for Tomjanovich and Jones, and that the same game is at the root of the discrepancies for Henderson and Leavell. Tomjanovich and Jones were both PFs, however, while Henderson and Leavell were both PGs. So it seems reasonable to assume that the discrepancies are between players at the same positions.

There were only three games that Tomjanovich played in for which the TSN box scores show Jones as the starter. These were two consecutive games on 12/7/79 & 12/8/79, and a single game on 12/29/79. Any of these games could plausibly be the source of the discrepancy, but the one on 12/29 seems like the most likely of the three. The games on 12/7 & 12/8 were the only two games Tomjanovich played in during a stretch where he was absent from thirteen games in a fifteen-game stretch. It looks like he was attempting to come back from an injury, so it makes sense that he would have played off the bench. The game on 12/29 was the third game after his ultimate return, after he had started the previous two games. It’s certainly possible he played off the bench in that game for some reason, but it’s the last of the three that I’d expect him to not start.

Henderson and Leavell traded off on the starting PG role multiple times across the season. As a result, there a number of points in the season where one handed off starting duties to the other. Any game marking such a transition, where Leavell is shown as the starter, could easily be the source of this discrepancy. The games that catch my eye the most, though, are the games on 12/29/79 and 1/22/80.

The game on 12/29 seems like the most likely candidate of all. The TSN box scores show it as a lone game started by Leavell in the middle of a twelve-game stretch when Henderson otherwise consistently started. There is no obvious reason Leavell would have started that game.

1/22 is also a single game started by Leavell during a period when he was otherwise coming off the bench. This time, though, it doesn’t interrupt a stretch started by Henderson. Henderson had been starting recently, but he hadn’t played in the preceding two games. Those games were started by Mike Dunleavy instead. For the game on 1/22, Henderson returned to action, but came off the bench. According to the TSN box score, Leavell started instead of Dunleavy. For the next game after that, Henderson returned to the starting lineup. That Henderson would have played off the bench on 1/22 isn’t especially surprising. If he did, though, Dunleavy would seem a more likely starter than Leavell.

Another possibility that catches my attention is the game on 2/28/80, if only because Leavell is in the fifth position of the box score and Henderson the sixth, raising the possibility that they could be shown out of order. But this game is in the middle of a lengthy stretch in which Leavell started almost every game. It isn’t surprising that he is shown as the starter, and there isn’t any obvious reason to think Henderson would have started instead.

If you’ve been reading closely, you may have noticed that the game I’ve identified as the most likely source of both discrepancies is the same game: 12/29/79. That’s a very interesting coincidence. Nothing about that TSN box score looks obviously amiss, or offers a simple explanation for how Jones and Leavell got into the starters’ slots if they weren’t actually the starters. Tomjanovich and Henderson are the last two players listed in the box score (the eighth and ninth players listed, respectively). Maybe this box score isn’t really in “starters first” F-F-C-G-G order at all, even though it looks like it is?

In this series of articles, I am assuming that the games started numbers in team media guides are correct, and I have used the numbers from the Rockets Media Guide in Part III below.

PLAYOFFS

The 2017-18 Rockets Media Guide has playoff games started stats going back to the 1968-69 season, the first time the franchise made the playoffs. For 1979-80, the media guide shows the following:

Henderson 7
Malone 7
Murphy 7
Reid 7
Paultz 6
Tomjanovich 1

The TSN box scores are in agreement with these totals.

B-R.COM’S GAME LOG FEATURE

When b-r.com first added its game log feature several years ago, it used the TSN box scores as its original source for every season that TSN ran them (1966-67 through 1980-81). Since games started was not an official NBA statistic during that period, and the TSN box scores didn’t explicitly identify the players who started each game, b-r.com’s game log feature did not have any games started data for these seasons. Over time, however, b-r.com has collected additional box score data. In some cases, this includes data for statistical categories that do not appear in the TSN box scores. For some games, this includes explicit identification of the starters. As of March 2019, b-r.com’s game log feature has games started data for fifteen of the 1979-80 Rockets’ regular season games. For all of those games, the players identified as the starters in b-r.com’s game log match the first five players in the TSN box scores.
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Re: 1979-80 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby MCT » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:32 pm

PART III – SAMPLE ROSTER

PLAYER INFORMATION

The sample roster below shows the Rockets’ roster as it looked in mid-to-late February. The players identified as the starters (the first five players) are the players who made the most starts at each position.

MOSES MALONE

History: Began pro career in ABA, 1974. Acquired in trade with Braves, October 1976.

Games Played (Regular Season 82 G, 38.3 MPG; Playoffs 7 G, 39.3 MPG): Malone appeared in every game the Rockets played.

Games Started (Regular Season: 82; Playoffs: 7): Malone started every game the Rockets played.

The TSN box scores show most of Malone’s starts at center, but he is shown starting the game on 2/24/80 at forward. This was the first game of a stretch late in the season when Billy Paultz started. The TSN box scores for all of the remaining games show Paultz at forward and Malone at center, but the box score for this game shows Paultz at center and Malone at forward. Note that the two are not on adjacent lines of the box score, so they don’t appear to be simply listed in the wrong order.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as C for all seasons of career, including 1979-80, with one exception. The exception is 1975-76, when Malone was in the ABA, which is shown as PF.

CALVIN MURPHY

History: 2nd round pick of Rockets in 1970.

Games Played (Regular Season 76 G, 35.2 MPG; Playoffs 7 G, 37.9 MPG): The six games Murphy didn’t play in were a single game on 12/27/79, four consecutive games from 2/28/80 through 3/5/80, and a single game on 3/20/80.

Games Started (Regular Season: 75; Playoffs: 7): The only game Murphy played in but didn’t start was on 3/7/80. This game immediately followed the four-game stretch in late February and early March when Murphy didn’t play.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as PG for most seasons of career, but 1979-80 is one of two exceptions shown as SG (the other is 1977-78).

ROBERT REID

History: 2nd round pick of Rockets in 1977.

Games Played (Regular Season 76 G, 30.3 MPG; Playoffs 7 G, 38.0 MPG): The six games Reid didn’t play in were two consecutive games on 1/4/80 & 1/5/80, and four consecutive games from 2/24/80 through 2/28/80.

Games Started (Regular Season: 54; Playoffs: 7): Reid started the first 22 games of the season (through 11/28/79), a single game on 12/21/79, nineteen games in a twenty-game stretch from 1/12/80 through 2/22/80 (all except 1/31/80), the last twelve games of the regular season (from 3/8/80 on), and all seven of the Rockets’ playoff games. All of Reid’s starts were at forward. Further details:

--Reid started the first 22 games of the season. Most of these starts were alongside Rudy Tomjanovich. Tomjanovich did not play in a number of games during this period, however. In particular, Tomjanovich dropped out of the lineup for an extended period towards the end of this timeframe. The games Tomjanovich didn’t play in were instead started by Rick Barry.

--On 11/30/79, Reid was replaced in the starting lineup by Major Jones, who then started alongside Barry. I have no information on the motivation behind this change, but both Barry and Reid were SFs. This move may have been made to get a PF into the lineup. With Tomjanovich out, the Rockets’ only real options in that regard were Jones or John Shumate. Reid would continue to play off the bench into January, although he did start one game during this period, on 12/21/79, in place of Jones. It’s not obvious to me why, as Jones did play in that game. When Tomjanovich returned to the starting lineup in late December, he displaced Jones from the lineup. Barry continued to start in the other forward slot, and Reid remained on the bench.

--On 1/12/80, Reid returned to the starting lineup, displacing Barry. From that point until 2/22/80, Reid started every game but one. The game he didn’t start was on 1/31/80, which was the last game before the All-Star break. Tomjanovich didn’t start that game either, so the Rockets used a completely different set of starting forwards in that game (Paultz and Barry) from all the other games they played around this time. Tomjanovich didn’t play in the game on 1/31, but Reid did. Reid is the last player listed in the box score. Perhaps he was suffering from some minor injury which didn’t completely prevent him from playing, but limited his availability.

--Reid’s run of games started was ended by the stretch of four games he didn’t play in beginning on 2/24. Billy Paultz started those games in place of Reid. When Reid returned to action, he came off the bench in his first four games back, then returned to the starting lineup on 3/8/80. When he did, he took the spot of Tomjanovich, who didn’t play in that game, or the next one after it, so Reid started alongside Paultz. Tomjanovich returned after those two games, but was used off the bench, as the Rockets continued to start Paultz and Reid. Reid started every regular season and playoff game from 3/8 on.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward-Guard. Primary position is shown as SF for most seasons of career, including 1979-80. Two seasons later in Reid’s career are shown as SG (1986-87 and 1987-88).

RUDY TOMJANOVICH

History: 1st round pick of Rockets in 1970.

Games Played (Regular Season 62 G, 29.6 MPG; Playoffs 7 G, 26.4 MPG): The twenty games Tomjanovich didn’t play in were four consecutive games from 10/13/79 through 10/20/79 (the second through fifth games of the season), thirteen games in a fifteen-game stretch from 11/24/79 through 12/22/79 (the two games Tomjanovich played in were two consecutive games on 12/7/79 & 12/8/79), a single game on 1/31/80 (the last game before the All-Star break), and two consecutive games on 3/8/80 & 3/11/80.

Tomjanovich was on the injured list for a period in late November and early December. He was placed on the injured list effective with either the game on 11/24 or 11/27 – I’m not sure which – and was activated on 12/7/79. This stay on the IL covered a portion of the fifteen-game stretch described in the previous paragraph.

Games Started (Regular Season: 50; Playoffs: 1): As noted earlier, there is a discrepancy in Tomjanovich’s games started between the Rockets Media Guide and the TSN box scores. The media guide indicates that Tomjanovich started 50 games. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that he started 49 games. It is difficult to definitively pin the discrepancy on a single game, but the game on 12/29/79 is probably the most likely candidate. See Part II for further discussion.

The thirteen regular season games the TSN box scores show Tomjanovich playing in but not starting were two consecutive games on 12/7/79 & 12/8/79, a single game on 12/29/79, and the last ten games of the season (from 3/12/80 on).

The games on 12/7 & 12/8 were the only two games Tomjanovich played in during a fifteen-game stretch in late November and early December. The game on 12/29 was in the middle of a stretch when Tomjanovich otherwise started, and it’s not obvious to me why he wouldn’t have started that game. This is the game I have identified as the most likely candidate for the source of the discrepancy between the media guide and TSN box scores.

The games from 3/12 through the end of the season followed two games in which Tomjanovich hadn’t played, so Tomjanovich may have been relegated to the bench for injury-related reasons. This was just one part of a great deal of shuffling of starting forwards that took place late in the season, however. For much of the season, Tomjanovich started alongside Robert Reid. In late February, Reid was absent from a stretch of four games, and Billy Paultz was put into the starting lineup to replace him. When Reid returned, he played off the bench for his first four games back, and Paultz continued to start. At that point, Tomjanovich was absent from the two games referenced above, and Reid took Tomjanovich’s place in the starting lineup, now starting alongside Paultz. When Tomjanovich returned, with ten games left in the season, he went to the bench, and the Rockets continued to use a starting forward tandem of Paultz and Reid.

In the playoffs, the Rockets continued to start Paultz and Reid, with Tomjanovich playing off the bench. Tomjanovich actually played more minutes in the playoffs than Paultz did, however. Tomjanovich did start one playoff game in place of Paultz, which was Game 3 of the Boston series (4/13/80). Paultz played in that game, so I’m not sure why Tomjanovich started it. This was the Rockets’ second-to-last playoff game.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward. Primary position is shown as PF for all seasons of career, including 1979-80, with one exception. The exception is 1977-78, which is shown as SF.

TOM HENDERSON

History: 1st round pick of Hawks in 1974. Signed as Veteran Free Agent, July 1979 (compensation owed to Bullets).

Games Played (Regular Season 66 G, 23.5 MPG; Playoffs 7 G, 29.0 MPG): The sixteen games Henderson didn’t play in were eleven consecutive games from 11/28/79 through 12/19/79, two consecutive games on 1/18/80 & 1/19/80, two consecutive games on 2/12/80 & 2/13/80, and a single game on 2/26/80. From 12/7/79 to 12/21/79, covering much of the eleven-game stretch, Henderson was on the injured list.

Games Started (Regular Season: 51; Playoffs: 7): As noted earlier, there is a discrepancy in Henderson’s games started between the Rockets Media Guide and the TSN box scores. The media guide indicates that Henderson started 51 games. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that he started 50 games. It is difficult to definitively pin the discrepancy on a single game, but the game on 12/29/79 is probably the most likely candidate. See Part II for further discussion.

The 50 regular season games the TSN box scores show Henderson starting were the first 21 games of the season (through 11/27/79), eleven games in a twelve-game stretch from 12/22/79 through 1/16/80 (all except 12/29/79), five consecutive games from 1/23/80 through 1/31/80 (the last five games before the All-Star break), four consecutive games from 3/4/80 through 3/8/80, and the last nine games of the season (from 3/14/80 on). Further details:

--Henderson started the first 21 games of the season. He was then absent from the next eleven games due to injury.

--Henderson returned to action on 12/21/79. He came off the bench in his first game back, then is shown returning to the starting lineup for eleven of the next twelve games. The exception is the game on 12/29/79. Henderson played in that game, so it’s not obvious to me why he wouldn’t have started it. This is the game I have identified as the most likely candidate for the source of the discrepancy between the media guide and TSN box scores.

--Henderson was then absent from the next two games. When he returned, he came off the bench for one game (1/22), then returned to the starting lineup for the next five games. These were the last five games before the All-Star break. Note that at this point in the season, while Henderson had been absent from thirteen games, he had started almost every game he had played in. There had only been three games where the TSN box scores show Henderson coming off the bench (12/21/79, 12/29/79, and 1/22/80).

--Coming out of the All-Star break, Allen Leavell took over the starting PG role, and Henderson went to the bench. Of the next twelve games the Rockets played, Henderson played in nine, but did not start any.

--Regular starting guard Calvin Murphy was absent from four games beginning on 2/28/80. Mike Dunleavy started the first two games in place of Murphy, but Henderson then started the next two (3/4 & 3/5), plus the following game (3/7), when Murphy played but came off the bench. These three starts were alongside Leavell.

--For the next game after that (3/8/80), Murphy returned to the starting lineup. Henderson started that game as well, however, displacing Leavell from the starting lineup. For the next two games after that (3/11/80 & 3/12/80), Leavell returned to the starting role, and Henderson went back to the bench. Then on 3/14/80, with nine games remaining in the regular season, Henderson again took over the starting role from Leavell. Henderson started all remaining regular season and playoff games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as PG for all seasons through 1979-80, then as SG for all seasons from 1980-81 onward.

ALLEN LEAVELL

History: 5th round pick of Rockets in 1979.

Games Played (Regular Season 77 G, 27.6 MPG; Playoffs 7 G, 21.3 MPG): Leavell didn’t play in the first five games of the season (through 10/20/79), because he was on the injured list. He was activated on 10/22/79. From that point on, Leavell appeared in every game the Rockets played.

Games Started (Regular Season: 31; Playoffs: 0): As noted earlier, there is a discrepancy in Leavell’s games started between the Rockets Media Guide and the TSN box scores. The media guide indicates that Leavell started 31 games. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that he started 32 games. It is difficult to definitively pin the discrepancy on a single game, but the game on 12/29/79 is probably the most likely candidate. See Part II for further discussion.

The 32 games the TSN box scores show Leavell starting were eleven consecutive games from 11/28/79 through 12/19/79, single games on 12/29/79 and 1/22/80, and nineteen games in a twenty-game stretch from 2/6/80 through 3/12/80 (all except 3/8/80).

For most of the first half of the season, Leavell played off the bench behind Tom Henderson. Leavell started during an eleven-game stretch in November and December when Henderson was out with an injury. (Henderson remained out of the starting lineup for a twelfth game, playing off the bench in his first game back, but Mike Dunleavy started that game instead of Leavell.) Leavell is also shown starting in place of Henderson on 12/29. It isn’t obvious to me why, as Henderson played in the game on 12/29. This is the game I have identified as the most likely candidate for the source of the discrepancy between the media guide and TSN box scores.

The game on 1/22 followed two games in which Henderson hadn’t played. Henderson came off the bench in the game on 1/22, then returned to the starting lineup in the game that followed. Mike Dunleavy started the two games Henderson didn’t play in, but Leavell is shown starting instead on 1/22.

On 2/6, coming out of the All-Star break, Leavell took over as the starter, and Henderson went to the bench. Leavell continued to start through 3/12, with the exception of one game. That game was on 3/8. Calvin Murphy, the regular starter in the opposite guard slot, had been absent from the starting lineup for the previous five games. Henderson had started the last three games in Murphy’s place, alongside Leavell. Murphy returned to the starting lineup on 3/8, but Henderson remained in a starting role for that game, bumping Leavell to the bench. For the next two games after that (3/11 & 3/12), however, Leavell took back over as the starter, and Henderson went back to the bench.

At that point (3/14), with nine games remaining in the regular season, Henderson again displaced Leavell from the starting lineup. From that point on, Leavell made no further starts.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as PG for all seasons through 1986-87 (including 1979-80), then as SG for his last two seasons in the NBA (1987-88 and 1988-89).

RICK BARRY

History: 1st round pick of Warriors in 1965. Signed as Veteran Free Agent, June 1978 (compensation owed to Warriors).

Games Played (Regular Season 72 G, 25.2 MPG; Playoffs 6 G, 13.2 MPG): The ten regular season games Barry didn’t play in were a single game on 2/13/80, three consecutive games from 3/4/80 through 3/7/80, and six of the last seven games of the season (every game from 3/19/80 on, except for 3/28/80, which was the second-to-last game of the regular season).

Barry appeared in six of the Rockets’ seven playoff games. The game he didn’t play in was Game 1 of the San Antonio series (4/2/80), which was the Rockets’ first playoff game.

Games Started (Regular Season: 28; Playoffs: 0): Barry started four consecutive games from 10/13/80 through 10/20/80 (the second through fifth games of the season), 23 consecutive games from 11/24/79 through 1/9/80, and a single game on 1/31/80 (the last game before the All-Star break).

Barry began the season in a reserve role. The four games he started in October were in place of Rudy Tomjanovich, who did not play in those games. Barry’s entry into a starting role in late November came at a point when Tomjanovich dropped out of the lineup for an extended period. These starts were initially with Robert Reid in the other starting forward slot. While Tomjanovich was out of the starting lineup, however, the Rockets sent Reid to the bench and replaced him with Major Jones. When Tomjanovich returned in late December, he displaced Jones from the starting lineup, and Barry continued to start. For the next few weeks the Rockets used a starting forward tandem of Tomjanovich and Barry.

On 1/12, Reid returned to the starting lineup, and Barry went to the bench. After that point, Barry started only one more game, which was on 1/31. This was the last game before the All-Star break. The Rockets used a completely different set of starting forwards in that game (Barry and Paultz) from all the other games they played around this time (Tomjanovich and Reid). Tomjanovich didn’t play in the game on 1/31, although Reid did.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward. Primary position is shown as SF for all seasons of career.

BILLY PAULTZ

History: Began pro career in ABA, 1970. Acquired in trade with Spurs, January 1980.

Paultz started the season with the Spurs, then was traded to the Rockets on 1/17/80 for John Shumate, a 3rd round pick, and cash.

Games Played (Regular Season 37 G, 26.5 MPG; Playoffs 7 G, 18.3 MPG): When the Rockets acquired Paultz, they had 37 games remaining in the regular season. Paultz played in all of them, as well as all seven of the Rockets’ playoff games.

Paultz had played in 47 games for the Spurs prior to the trade, giving him a total of 84 regular season games played for the year. Because the Spurs had played more games than the Rockets at the time of the trade, Paultz was able to play in more than the standard 82 games.

Games Started (Regular Season: 21; Playoffs: 6): Paultz started a single game on 1/31/80, the last twenty games of the regular season (from 2/24/80 on), and six of the Rockets’ seven playoff games.

The TSN box scores show most of Paultz’ starts at forward, but he is shown starting the game on 2/24/80 at center. The TSN box scores for all the other games Paultz started show Paultz at forward and Moses Malone at center, but the box score for the game on 2/24 shows Paultz at center and Malone at forward. The two are not on adjacent lines of the box score, so they don’t appear to be simply listed in the wrong order.

Paultz’ start on 1/31 was in place of Rudy Tomjanovich, who didn’t play in that game. This was the last game before the All-Star break.

Paultz moved into the starting lineup on 2/24 in place of the Rockets’ other regular starting forward, Robert Reid, who was absent from a stretch of four games beginning on that date. When Reid returned, however, he came off the bench for the next four games, and Paultz continued to start. Tomjanovich was then absent from the next two games after that; Reid moved back into the starting lineup to replace Tomjanovich, and Paultz continued to start, now opposite Reid. When Tomjanovich returned, with ten games left in the regular season, he was used off the bench, and the Rockets continued with Reid and Paultz as the starters at forward. The end result of all of this is that Paultz started every regular season game from 2/24 on.

Paultz continued to start in the playoffs, although Tomjanovich actually played more minutes in the playoffs than Paultz did. There was one game Tomjanovich started instead of Paultz, which was Game 3 of the Boston series (4/13/80). Paultz played in that game, so I’m not sure why Tomjanovich started it. This was the Rockets’ second-to-last playoff game.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as C for all seasons of career, including 1979-80, with one exception. The exception is 1980-81, which is shown as PF.

MIKE DUNLEAVY

History: 6th round pick of 76ers in 1976. Signed as a free agent, March 1978.

Games Played (Regular Season 51 G, 20.3 MPG; Playoffs 6 G, 7.5 MPG): The 31 games Dunleavy didn’t play in were eighteen consecutive games from 10/17/79 through 11/27/79, eleven consecutive games from 1/30/80 through 2/22/80 (the last two games before the All-Star break, and the first nine games after it), and single games on 3/14/80 and 3/26/80. From 10/22/79 to 11/28/79, covering most of the eighteen-game stretch, Dunleavy was on the injured list.

Dunleavy appeared in six of the Rockets’ seven playoff games. The game he didn’t play in was Game 3 of the Boston series (4/13/80).

Games Started (Regular Season: 7; Playoffs: 0): The seven games Dunleavy started were single games on 12/21/79 and 12/27/79, two consecutive games on 1/18/80 & 1/19/80, two consecutive games on 2/28/80 & 3/2/80, and a single game on 3/20/80.

The game on 12/21 was the final game of a twelve-game stretch when Tom Henderson was absent from the starting lineup. Henderson didn’t play in the first eleven games, then played but came off the bench on 12/21. Allen Leavell started the first eleven games, but for whatever reason Dunleavy started instead on 12/21. Henderson returned to the starting lineup for the next game, ending any need to have either Leavell or Dunleavy start.

The six remaining games that Dunleavy started were all games in which either Henderson or the Rockets’ other regular starting guard, Calvin Murphy, didn’t play. Murphy didn’t play on 12/27, Henderson didn’t play on 1/18 and 1/19, and Murphy didn’t play on 2/28, 3/2 and 3/20.

After Henderson didn’t play on 1/18 and 1/19, he remained out of starting lineup for an additional game (1/22) in which he played but came off the bench. For whatever reason, the TSN box scores show Leavell starting that game rather than Dunleavy. Similarly, the two games Murphy didn’t play in on 2/28 and 3/2 were the first two games of a stretch of four that Murphy didn’t play in, and five overall that he didn’t start (he came off the bench in his first game back). Dunleavy only started the first two games. For the remaining games, the starting slot was filled by Henderson, who had been moved to the bench behind Leavell at that point in the season.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position switches back and forth between SG and PG. 1979-80 is shown as PG.

MAJOR JONES

History: 2nd round pick of Blazers in 1976. Signed as a free agent, September 1979. Jones had no regular season NBA experience prior to making the Rockets’ opening night roster.

Games Played (Regular Season 82 G, 18.8 MPG; Playoffs 6 G, 11.7 MPG): Jones is credited with appearing in all 82 regular season games, but I only noted him in 81 TSN box scores. b-r.com’s game log feature also shows Jones in only 81 box scores. It is possible that Jones was omitted from the TSN box score to one game in which he did not compile any stats that would have been shown in the box score.

The regular season TSN box score Jones is absent from is for the game on 3/14/80. If Jones really did play in all 82 regular season games, he obviously has to have played in that game.

Jones appeared in six of the Rockets’ seven playoff games. The game he didn’t play in was Game 4 of the Boston series (4/14/80), which was the Rockets’ last playoff game.

Games Started (Regular Season: 11; Playoffs: 0): As noted earlier, there is a discrepancy in Jones’ games started between the Rockets Media Guide and the TSN box scores. The media guide indicates that Jones started eleven games. My analysis of the TSN box scores suggests that he started twelve games. It is difficult to definitively pin the discrepancy on a single game, but the game on 12/29/79 is probably the most likely candidate. See Part II for further discussion.

The twelve games the TSN box scores show Jones starting were eleven games in an twelve-game stretch from 11/30/79 through 12/22/79 (all except 12/21/79, which was the second-to-last game in that stretch), and a single game on 12/29/79.

At the start of the season, the Rockets used a starting forward tandem of Robert Reid and Rudy Tomjanovich. In November, Tomjanovich dropped out of the starting lineup for an extended period, apparently due to injury. He was replaced by Rick Barry. Several games later, on 11/30/79, the Rockets sent Reid to the bench and replaced him with Jones. I have no information on the motivation behind this change, but both Barry and Reid were SFs. This move may have been made to get a PF into the lineup. With Tomjanovich out, the Rockets’ only real options in that regard were Jones or John Shumate.

Jones continued to start until Tomjanovich returned in late December, although there was one game near the end of this stretch that Reid started rather than Jones (12/21/79). It’s not obvious to me why, as Jones did play in that game.

Several games after Tomjanovich returned, the TSN box scores show Jones starting one more game, this time in place of Tomjanovich (12/29/79). Tomjanovich played in this game, so it’s not obvious to me why he wouldn’t have started that game. This is the game I have identified as the most likely candidate for the source of the discrepancy between the media guide and TSN box scores.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward. Primary position is shown as PF for all seasons of career.

ALONZO BRADLEY

History: 2nd round pick of Pacers in 1977. Draft rights acquired in trade with Pacers, December 1977.

Games Played (Regular Season 22 G, 4.4 MPG; Playoffs 4 G, 3.8 MPG): I’m not going to list out exactly which regular season games Bradley played in and which he didn’t, but his appearances in the TSN box scores do add up to his official games played total.

Bradley played very sparingly in the early part of the season, with the majority of the games he played in falling within the last two months of the season. Bradley appeared in just four of the Rockets’ first 30 games, and just ten of their first 55. After that point, he played in twelve of the last 27 games of the regular season.

Bradley appeared in four of the Rockets’ seven playoff games. The games he played in were Game 3 of the San Antonio series, and Games 1, 2 and 4 of the Boston series.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0; Playoffs: 0): Bradley did not start any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward. Primary position is shown as SF for all seasons of career.

INJURED LIST:

PAUL MOKESKI

History: 2nd round pick of Rockets in 1979.

Games Played (Regular Season 12 G, 9.4 MPG): Mokeski appears to have been on the Rockets’ roster all season, but spent most of the year on the injured list. The twelve games Mokeski played in were all during a fourteen-game stretch from 11/28/79 through 12/26/79. Mokeski played in every game during that stretch except for two consecutive games on 12/7/79 & 12/8/79.

Mokeski began the season on the injured list. He appears to have been activated when Rudy Tomjanovich was placed on the IL effective with either the game on 11/24 or the game on 11/27 – I’m not sure which. Note that this means Mokeski was on the active roster for a game or two prior to making his first appearance on 11/28.

At the other end, I believe that Mokeski was placed on the injured list effective with the game on 1/2/80, so that John Shumate could be activated from the IL, and remained there for the rest of the season. Note that this means Mokeski was on the active roster for two additional games after his last appearance on 12/26. I have no documentation of Mokeski being on the IL after 1/2, but it seems pretty clear that he wasn’t on the active roster, and I have found no evidence that he was ever waived or otherwise ceased to be a member of the Rockets during this period. Against that backdrop, the most logical explanation for Mokeksi’s status after 1/2 is that he was on the injured list.

Mokeski was definitely not on the Rockets’ active roster for the playoffs. They used eleven players in the playoffs, and Mokeski wasn’t one of them.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): Mokeski did not start any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as C for all seasons of career.

NO LONGER WITH TEAM:

JOHN SHUMATE

History: 1st round pick of Suns in 1974. Signed as a free agent, November 1979.

The Rockets were the second of three NBA teams Shumate played for in 1979-80. He started the season with the Pistons, but was waived in late October. The Rockets signed Shumate shortly after that, on 11/7/79, waiving Rudy White to make room on the roster. On 1/17/80, the Rockets traded Shumate, a 3rd round pick and cash to the Spurs in exchange for Billy Paultz.

Games Played (Regular Season 29 G, 11.4 MPG): During the period when Shumate was on the Rockets’ roster, the team played 35 games. Shumate appeared in 29 of them. The six games he didn’t play in were a single game on 11/21/79, and five consecutive games from 12/21/79 through 12/29/79. During the latter stretch, Shumate was on the injured list.

For the season as a whole, Shumate appeared in nine games with the Pistons, 29 games with the Rockets, and 27 games with the Spurs, giving him a total of 65 regular season games played for the year.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): Shumate did not start any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward-Center. Primary position is shown as PF for all seasons of career.

DWIGHT JONES

History: 1st round pick of Hawks in 1973. Acquired in trade with Hawks, June 1976.

Jones started the season with the Rockets, but was waived on 11/28/79. This was one of four separate transactions the Rockets made over the span of two or three games in late November. The net effect was to activate two players from the injured list (Mike Dunleavy and Paul Mokeski), place another player on the IL (Rudy Tomjanovich), and waive Jones. Dunleavy was the player who directly replaced Jones on the active roster on 11/28, although I think Mokeski replaced Jones in a more functional sense.

Games Played (Regular Season 21 G, 13.2 MPG): At the time Jones was waived, the Rockets had played 21 games. Jones had appeared in all of them.

The Rockets played their 22nd game of the season on the day Jones was waived (11/28/79), but it’s apparent that he was waived and Dunleavy activated before that game was played, because Dunleavy played in the game.

Jones was signed by the Bulls in December and would finish out the season with them. He appeared in 53 games with the Bulls, giving him a total of 74 regular season games played for the year.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): Jones did not start any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward-Center. Primary position switches back and forth between C and PF during the early and middle parts of his career, with PF predominant in the second half of his career. All seasons from 1979-80 on are shown as PF.

RUDY WHITE

History: 3rd round pick of Rockets in 1975.

White started the season with the Rockets, but was waived on 11/7/79. The Rockets filled the roster spot by signing John Shumate.

Games Played (Regular Season 9 G, 11.8 MPG): White played in the first nine games of the season, through 10/31/79. He was on the Rockets’ roster for one additional game after that (11/3) before he was waived.

The Rockets also played a game on the day White was waived (11/7/79), but it’s apparent that he was waived and Shumate signed before that game was played, because Shumate played in the game.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): White did not start any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Guard. Primary position is shown as SG for all seasons of career.

JACKY DORSEY

History: 2nd round pick of Jazz in 1976. Signed as a free agent, May 1978.

Dorsey was placed on the injured list on 10/11/79 (the day before the start of the regular season), as the Rockets cut their active roster down to the minimum eleven players in preparation for the start of the season. He was waived on 11/12/79 without having been activated from the IL or appearing in any games.

Games Played: Dorsey was on the injured list for the entire portion of the season he was on the Rockets’ roster, and did not appear in any games.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Forward. Primary position is shown as SF for all seasons of career.
Last edited by MCT on Fri Apr 19, 2019 5:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
MCT
 
Posts: 935
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Re: 1979-80 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby MCT » Fri Mar 08, 2019 7:36 pm

PART IV – POSITION INFORMATION

STARTERS

The starters on the sample roster are shown in bold below. Any games started figures below are per the Rockets Media Guide, include regular season games only, and may include games started by players at positions other than their primary position.

C: Moses Malone was the regular starter throughout the season.

PF: Rudy Tomjanovich was the regular starter throughout most of the season. Tomjanovich missed some time due to injuries, however, then was sent to the bench late in the season. Because the frequent changes in the Rockets’ starting forwards are sometimes complicated to describe, and the players used don’t always break neatly into PF/SF classifications, I am discussing both forward slots collectively below. Ultimately, Tomjanovich started far more games (50) than any other PF.

SF: Robert Reid was the regular starter throughout most of the season. Reid came off the bench at times, however. Because the frequent changes in the Rockets’ starting forwards are sometimes complicated to describe, and the players used don’t always break neatly into SF/PF classifications, I am discussing both forward slots collectively below. Ultimately, Reid started far more games (54) than any other SF.

PG: Tom Henderson was the regular starter throughout most of the season. Henderson missed some time due to injuries, however, opening up an opportunity for Allen Leavell to accumulate some starts. Following the All-Star break, Leavell took over as the starter for a period of a little over a month. Henderson then took the job back in mid-March, holding it down through the end of the season, including the playoffs. For the regular season as a whole, Henderson started 51 games, Leavell 31.

SG: Calvin Murphy was the regular starter throughout the season.

At the beginning of the season, the starting forwards were Rudy Tomjanovich (PF) and Robert Reid (SF). Tomjanovich went out with an injury in November. Rick Barry initially replaced him in the starting lineup, even though this effectively resulted in a lineup with two SFs. Shortly after Tomjanovich went out, Reid went to the bench, and was replaced as a starter by Major Jones. This move may have been made to get a PF into the lineup. When Tomjanovich returned, in late December, he took back the starting PF role, displacing Jones. For a time after this, the Rockets used a starting tandem of Tomjanovich (PF) and Barry (SF). In January, Reid returned to the starting lineup, displacing Barry. Tomjanovich (PF) and Reid (SF) were the starting forwards from that point into late February.

During a period in late February and early March, Reid and Tomjanovich were each absent from a few games. Billy Paultz was put into the starting lineup as a fill-in, starting at times alongside both Tomjanovich and Reid. When the dust settled, Paultz (PF) had become a permanent starter alongside Reid (SF), and Tomjanovich wound up on the bench. This arrangement continued for the playoffs, although Tomjanovich actually played more minutes than Paultz during the playoffs (this may have been true for the entire time after Tomjanovich went to the bench, but it’s impossible to tell for the portion of this period that fell within the regular season without seeing minutes played breakdowns for each game). For the regular season as a whole Reid started 54 games, Tomjanovich 50, Barry 28, Paultz 21, and Jones 11.

This is one of only two seasons in Calvin Murphy’s career when b-r.com shows him as an SG rather than a PG. Many of the players in the Rockets’ backcourt look to have been combo guards, capable of playing either position, including both Murphy and Henderson. Of the two, Henderson seems like more of a classic PG than Murphy – I’d say the same about Leavell as well – so I agree with b-r.com’s position designations. Not having researched how Murphy was used in earlier seasons, I’m curious what the Rockets envisioned when they signed Henderson. Did they do this because they felt they needed a better PG (i.e., Murphy was better suited to SG), or did they do this because they felt they needed a better SG, decided that shifting Murphy there was the best solution, and then needed to go out and get a PG?

The only players to average more than 30 mpg during the regular season were Malone, Murphy and Reid, though Tomjanovich was close (29.6). At PG, Henderson and Leavell look to have been used in kind of a platoon arrangement, which kept both below 30 mpg.

For the playoffs, Malone, Murphy and Reid continued to be the only players over 30 mpg, with each seeing an increase over their regular season minutes.

MINUTES PLAYED

All players are listed based on their primary positions for this season as shown by b-r.com.

REGULAR SEASON

Center
Available minutes: 3986
Malone 3140, Paultz 980, Mokeski 113
adds up to 4233 (247 over)

At first glance, this seems pretty simple. The 247 minute surplus is presumably minutes played at forward by someone whose primary position was center. Billy Paultz started at forward late in the season, so he’s the obvious candidate.

If you stop and think about it for a moment, though, it’s not that simple. The list above has to paint an incomplete picture of who played center for the Rockets this season. Moses Malone was obviously the starting center throughout the season, and Paultz was the backup for the roughly the second half of the season, following his acquisition on January 17. But the only other name on the list above is Paul Mokeski. Mokeski can’t possibly have covered the backup center position for the entire season prior to January 17. Mokeski only played in twelve games, all of them between November 28 and December 26. Who was the backup center between the start of the season and November 27, and between December 27 and January 16? Let’s look at each segment of the season in turn.

The start of the season to November 27:

During this portion of the season, I think the Rockets’ backup center was Dwight Jones. To start off, Jones looks to me like the only obvious candidate. Aside from Moses Malone, he was the only player on the Rockets’ opening night active roster whose b-r.com position information indicates could play center. Jones’ old b-r.com header lists his position as “Forward-Center”, and there are three seasons for which b-r.com shows his primary position as C, including the season before this one (1978-79).

In addition, Jones was waived the same day Mokeski played in his first game for the Rockets. If Jones’ role up to that point in the season had been as the backup center, and Mokeski was to take over that role moving forward, the timing of Jones’ waiving makes perfect sense.

The preseason rosters in the 1979-80, 1980-81 and 1981-82 editions of the NBA Guide all show Jones’ position as “C-F”. My sense is that the position designations in the NBA Guide often reflect how a player was used the previous season. Because Jones spent most of the 1979-80 season with the Bulls, however, it’s unclear how much what’s in the 1980-81 edition tells us about how he was used during the portion of the 1979-80 season he spent with the Rockets. The “C-F” position designations shown in these editions of the NBA Guide are certainly consistent with the idea that Jones played center during this portion of his career, however, and that the Rockets could have used Jones as their backup center.

b-r.com has Jones’ primary position this season as PF. Was it actually C? If I’m correct about Jones being used as the backup center, I suspect that it was, but it’s hard to say for certain. For the season as a whole, starter Moses Malone averaged 38.3 mpg. That would leave about ten minutes a game to be covered by his backup. Jones averaged 13.4 mpg, which would suggest that he played the bulk of his minutes at center, also covering a few minutes a game at forward. We don’t know how many minutes a game Malone was playing during this specific portion of the season, though. It could have been more or less. It if it was more, that would have shifted more of Jones’ playing time to forward. If it was less, all 13.4 of Jones’ minutes may have been needed at center.

Another wild card is the presence of John Shumate on the Rockets’ roster, from November 7 on. We’ll discuss Shumate in more detail in a few minutes. For now, suffice to say that it’s not crystal clear to me exactly how Shumate was used during the portion of the season when both he and Jones were on the roster together. Note that Shumate’s presence on the roster may have played a role in the decision to waive Jones. It may not have been simply that the Rockets felt they didn’t need Jones now that they had Mokeski, but that they felt they didn’t need Jones now that they had both Mokeski and Shumate.

The bottom line: I think Jones was the Rockets’ backup center during the early part of the season; I suspect that Jones played the majority of his minutes with the Rockets at center (which would make C his primary position, not PF); but without knowing how many minutes Malone was playing during this portion of the season, and how Shumate was being used, it’s hard to say for certain how much Jones played where.

November 28 to December 26:

During this portion of the season, I believe that Paul Mokeski was serving as the backup center. Mokeski played 9.4 mpg, which would fit in nicely behind Malone’s mpg figure for the season (38.3), with the caveat that, once again, we obviously don’t know how many minutes Malone was playing during this specific portion of the season.

John Shumate was also on the Rockets’ roster during this period. If Malone and Mokeski weren’t covering all of the available minutes at center, Shumate may have helped out a little. Shumate may have also served as the backup center in the two games Mokeski didn’t play in on 12/7/79 & 12/8/79.

December 27 to January 16:

For most of this portion of the season, I think John Shumate was the Rockets’ backup center. Similar to Dwight Jones in the early part of the season, Shumate looks to me like the only obvious candidate. Aside from Moses Malone, he was the only player on the Rockets’ active roster during this period whose b-r.com position information indicates could play center; Shumate’s old b-r.com header lists his position as “Forward-Center”. Shumate also became the Spurs’ starting center after he was traded to San Antonio on January 17.

Let’s back up a little and look at Shumate’s entire time with the Rockets, going back to the beginning. He was initially signed on November 7. Looking at the Rockets’ roster on that date, it isn’t obvious to me at first glance why they signed Shumate. The Rockets were already carrying two centers (Malone and Dwight Jones) and five forwards (Tomjanovich, Reid, Barry, Bradley and Major Jones) on their active roster. To make room for Shumate, they waived a guard, Rudy White. That left them with only three guards on the active roster (although another guard, Mike Dunleavy, was on the injured list). Against that backdrop, why waive a guard to sign a PF/C type like Shumate?

Since it’s not entirely clear to me what the Rockets’ purpose was in signing Shumate, it’s also not entirely clear to me where the Rockets would have used him at first. My best guess is this: While the Rockets were short a guard at the time (Dunleavy), they also had a forward who could swing to guard (Robert Reid). Perhaps they were using Reid more heavily at guard while Dunleavy was out, opening up some minutes at forward, and at least some of those minutes at forward were then filled by Shumate. Depending on how Shumate and Dwight Jones were used in relation to one another, it’s possible that Shumate played some center as well.

In the course of a few days in late November, several different things happened to the Rockets’ roster. Mike Dunleavy and Paul Mokeski came off the injured list; Rudy Tomjanovich went on the injured list; and Dwight Jones was waived. In the wake of this, my guess is that Reid’s minutes shifted more heavily back to forward, but that there continued to be playing time available for Shumate at forward due to Tomjanovich’s absence. At this point, I think filling in for Tomjanovich at PF became Shumate’s main role. If Malone and Mokeski weren’t covering all of the available minutes at center, Shumate may have helped out a little there as well.

On December 7, Tomjanovich returned to action. That development could have potentially cut Shumate’s playing time. But Mokeski didn’t play in that game, or the one after it, which may have required the Rockets to use Shumate as the backup center in those two games. For the next game, Mokeski returned, but Tomjanovich went back out again, and everything presumably went back to the way it had been before December 7.

On December 21, Shumate went on the injured list. A couple of games later, Tomjanovich returned. Just like the last time, this could have potentially cut Shumate’s playing time (once Shumate returned from the IL, anyway). But also like last time, something occurred that probably stopped that from happening. After December 26, Mokeski played in no further games this season, presumably due to injury. When Shumate was activated, effective with the game on January 2, I think he took over the backup center role, and held it down until he was traded to the Spurs a few weeks later. It’s possible that Shumate continued to play a little forward as well, but I think his main focus was now center.

The upshot of all that: b-r.com shows Shumate’s primary position as PF, and I think they’re probably right. From the time he was signed on November 7 until he went on the injured list on December 21, I think Shumate spent the bulk of his playing time at forward. The time he played at forward during that period likely outweighs the shorter period from January 2 to January 16 when I think he served as the Rockets’ backup center.

Between the time Mokeski went out and the time Shumate was activated from the IL, the Rockets played two games, on 12/27 & 12/29. An interesting question is who served as the backup center for those two games. Moses Malone was the only player who appeared in either game whose b-r.com position information indicates could play center. Maybe Major Jones?

The bottom line with Shumate: Shumate was with the Rockets from November 7 until he was traded to the Spurs on January 17. I think he served as the Rockets’ backup center from January 2 until the time he was traded. Before that, while Shumate may have played some center, I think he was used mostly at forward, due to a combination of the Rockets having other players available to serve as the backup center (Dwight Jones, Paul Mokeski), and having more need for Shumate at forward (due to Reid possibly being shifted to guard to cover for Dunleavy, and Tomjanovich being out with an injury). For the time he spent with the Rockets as a whole, I think b-r.com is correct that Shumate’s primary position was PF.

January 16 to the end of the season:

Once he was acquired on January 17, I think it’s pretty clear that Billy Paultz took over as the Rockets’ backup center, and held down that role for the remainder of the season.

Paultz wasn’t just the backup center, however. It’s also pretty clear that Paultz must have accumulated significant playing time at forward. The TSN box scores show him starting twenty regular season games and six playoff games at forward. And Paultz’ 26.5 mpg can’t possibly have all been at center, behind Malone. As already noted, Malone averaged 38.3 mpg for the season. It’s possible that the Rockets rested Malone a bit once they acquired Paultz, under the theory that Paultz was better than any of the backup centers they’d employed up to this point, resulting in Malone playing a bit less during the portion of the season when Paultz was on the roster. But I think it’s completely implausible that the Rockets would have rested Malone enough for Paultz to have played anywhere near 26.5 mpg at center.

b-r.com has Paultz’ primary position as C. Should it actually be PF? Without knowing exactly how many minutes Malone was playing during this portion of the season, it’s hard to say for certain. My guess is that Paultz probably played more at forward, but I can’t definitively say that b-r.com is wrong. When we previously looked at the 1980-81 season, we found that Paultz similarly split his time between these two positions, although b-r.com has his primary position as PF in 1980-81.

The preseason rosters in the 1979-80, 1980-81 and 1981-82 editions of the NBA Guide all show Paultz as exclusively a center. My sense is that the position designations in the NBA Guide often reflect how a player was used the previous season, so at first glance it’s puzzling that Paultz isn’t shown as “C-F” (or “F-C”) in the 1980-81 and 1981-82 editions. In both of those editions, however, there isn’t a single player on the Rockets who is shown playing multiple positions. I suspect that whoever drew up the Rockets’ rosters for those two editions limited themselves to a single position for each player, making them of no use in determining whether a given player had a secondary position of significance.

When we looked at the 76ers, I had commented that when Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones were in the lineup alongside each other, with Jones nominally playing power forward, you could argue that this was more of a lineup with two centers than a lineup in which Jones was being used as a true PF. I think you could say the same thing about a Rockets lineup with both Malone and Paultz in it. From Paultz’ perspective, the distinction may not have been as much playing center versus playing forward as much as it was playing alongside Malone versus not playing alongside Malone.

A possible factor in why Paultz played so much at forward: in 30 of the 37 games the Rockets played after Paultz was acquired, at least one rotational forward (Robert Reid, Rudy Tomjanovich or Rick Barry) or guard (Calvin Murphy, Tom Henderson or Mike Dunleavy) did not play. I am guessing that most of those absences were injury-related. When a forward was out of the lineup, that obviously would have opened up minutes at forward for Paultz. When a guard was out of the lineup, the Rockets may have shifted Robert Reid more heavily to guard, creating a need to play Paultz more heavily at forward.

The bottom line with Paultz: I think Paultz both served as the backup center and played significant minutes at PF; it’s hard to say which of the two he played the most at, but I suspect that he played a little bit more at forward.

Forward
Available minutes: 7972
Reid 2304, Tomjanovich 1834, Barry 1816, M. Jones 1545, Shumate 332, D. Jones 278, Bradley 96
adds up to 8205 (233 over)

The above numbers come out 233 minutes over, but taking into account the 247 minute surplus at center, the frontcourt as a whole is 480 minutes over. That surplus is presumably minutes played at guard by someone whose primary position is shown as forward.

I think that player was Robert Reid. Reid was the only player on the Rockets’ roster whose b-r.com position information indicates could play both forward and guard. The preseason rosters in the 1979-80 edition of the NBA Guide also show Reid’s position as “F-G”. In addition, when we previously looked at the 1980-81 season, we concluded that Reid swung extensively between these two positions.

Reid appears to have played less at guard in 1979-80 than he did in 1980-81. When we previously looked at 1980-81, we concluded that he played about 1200 minutes at guard, making up about 40% of his total minutes. The above numbers for 1979-80 suggest that Reid played about 480 minutes at guard, making up about 20% of his total minutes. As alluded to in the discussion above under Center, Reid may have been used more heavily at guard during the portions of the season when one of the regular guards was unavailable (Mike Dunleavy and Tom Henderson in particular both missed significant time). It’s possible that most of Reid’s minutes at guard were accumulated during those periods, and that he saw relatively little use there otherwise.

As noted above, the preseason rosters in the 1979-80 edition of the NBA Guide show Reid’s position as “F-G”. By contrast, the preseason rosters in the 1980-81 and 1981-82 editions show Reid as exclusively a forward. My sense is that the position designations in the NBA Guide often reflect how a player was used the previous season, so at first glance it’s puzzling that Reid doesn’t continue to be shown as “F-G” in the 1980-81 and 1981-82 editions. In both of those editions, however, there isn’t a single player on the Rockets who is shown playing multiple positions. I suspect that whoever drew up the Rockets’ rosters for those two editions limited themselves to a single position for each player, making them of no use in determining whether a given player had a secondary position of significance.

Guard
Available minutes: 7972
Murphy 2676, Leavell 2123, Henderson 1551, Dunleavy 1036, White 106
adds up to 7492 (480 under)

The 480 minute shortage presumably represents minutes played at guard by someone whose primary position was forward. I think this was Robert Reid; see the discussion under Forward above.

I am curious about how Tom Henderson and Allen Leavell were used in relation to one another. Henderson was the regular starter for most of the season, and accumulated significantly more starts than Leavell did. But Leavell averaged more minutes per game than Henderson did, and it wasn’t really that close (27.6 mpg versus 23.5 mpg). Was Leavell playing more minutes than Henderson even during portions of the season when he was coming off the bench behind him? On both a per game and per minute basis, Leavell had also higher averages than Henderson in virtually every statistical category, including points and assists. Even though he started significantly fewer games, one could make a decent argument that Leavell was a more important player to the team, across the season as a whole, than Henderson was.

PLAYOFFS

Center
Available minutes: 336
Malone 275, Paultz 128
Adds up to 403 (67 over)

In our discussion of the regular season, we concluded that Billy Paultz served as the backup center, but also saw significant minutes at forward. Against that backdrop, the 67 minute surplus presumably represents minutes played by Paultz at forward. Paultz had started at forward during the later part of the regular season, and continued to start there for six of the Rockets’ seven playoff games. Paultz’ playoff minutes appear to have been split roughly evenly between center and forward, with perhaps slightly more at forward.

Forward
Available minutes: 672
Reid 266, Tomjanovich 185, Barry 79, Jones 70, Bradley 15
Adds up to 615 (57 under)

The above numbers come out 57 minutes under, but taking into account the 67 minute surplus at center, the frontcourt as a whole is 10 minutes over. As in the regular season, I’d guess that those 10 minutes represent minutes played by Robert Reid at guard.

If that’s accurate, the Rockets apparently used Reid much less at guard during the playoffs than during the regular season (about 6.3 mpg versus about 1.3 mpg). That may tie in with my earlier suggestion that Reid could have been used more heavily at guard during the portions of the season when one of the regular guards was unavailable, but saw relatively little use at guard otherwise. For the playoffs, the Rockets’ four main rotational guards were collectively absent from only one game, so there would not have been much need to use Reid at guard.

Billy Paultz continued to start at PF in the playoffs, with the exception of one game, but his minutes per game were down quite a bit from the regular season (18.3 mpg in the playoffs compared to 26.5 mpg during the regular season). Rudy Tomjanovich played significantly more minutes in the playoffs than Paultz did, even though Tomjanovich mostly played off the bench behind Paultz.

In our discussion of the regular season, I had suggested that the absence of at least one rotational forward or guard from the lineup in 30 of the 37 regular season games the Rockets played after acquiring Paultz may have created more playing time at forward for him. During the playoffs, by contrast, a rotational forward or guard was missing in only three of the Rockets’ seven playoff games, and all three of the missed games were by players who were well down in the Rockets’ rotation. The three players were Rick Barry, Major Jones and Mike Dunleavy. None of them averaged more than 13.2 mpg during the playoffs; I think it’s very possible that Jones and Dunleavy didn’t “miss” the games in question, but were just DNP-CD’s. Similar to Reid’s minutes at guard, Paultz’s minutes per game may have been down during the playoffs simply because there was less need to use him at forward than there had been during the regular season.

Guard
Available minutes: 672
Murphy 265, Henderson 203, Leavell 149, Dunleavy 45
Adds up to 662 (10 under)

The 10 minute shortage is presumably minutes played at guard by someone whose primary position was forward, probably Robert Reid; see the discussion under Forward above.

Note that during the playoffs, Tom Henderson played more minutes than Allen Leavell, a reversal of the relationship between the two during the regular season.

TRIVIA

Oldest Player: Rick Barry, born 3/28/44 (age 35 throughout most of the season, turned 36 a few days before the end of the regular season). Barry was the second-oldest player in the NBA this season, behind only Paul Silas.

Played in ABA: Moses Malone, Rick Barry, Billy Paultz.

Longest continuous service with team: Rudy Tomjanovich and Calvin Murphy were both acquired in the 1970 draft, and had been with the team since the 1970-71 season. They were the only remaining players who had been with the franchise continuously since its days in San Diego.
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