1980-81 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transactions

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1980-81 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transactions

Postby MCT » Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:53 pm

This is the 17th of a series of threads analyzing games played, games started and transactions for the 1980-81 season. Before reading any further, see the introductory thread below:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4961

HOUSTON ROCKETS – PART I

SEASON OVERVIEW

The Rockets had a 40-42 record. They finished in a tie with the Kings for the second-best record in the Midwest Division (a distant 12 games behind the first-place Spurs). The two teams were tied for the fifth-best record in the Western Conference, but under tiebreaker rules the Kings won the higher seed, relegating the Rockets to the #6 seed in the playoffs.

In the First Round, the Rockets defeated the Lakers 2-1. In the Conference Semifinals, they beat the Spurs 4-3, then defeated the Kings 4-1 in the Conference Finals. They lost to the Celtics 4-2 in the NBA Finals. The Rockets played a total of 21 playoff games, more than any other NBA team.

The Rockets used 13 different players for the season, two above the minimum.

ROSTER AND TRANSACTIONS

OPENING NIGHT ROSTER

Mike Dunleavy
Calvin Garrett
Tom Henderson
Lee Johnson
Major Jones
Alvin Leavell
Moses Malone
Calvin Murphy
Billy Paultz
*John Stroud
Robert Reid
Rudy Tomjanovich

*placed on injured list 10/9/80

IN-SEASON TRANSACTIONS

In the list below, anything which is underlined is the subject of discrepancies or guesswork, or is the result of further research beyond my usual sources.

11/27/80 – Signed Bill Willoughby as a Veteran Free Agent; sent a 1981 3rd round pick to the Cavaliers as compensation for Willoughby; waived Lee Johnson.

12/9/80 – Placed Calvin Garrett on the injured list; activated John Stroud from the injured list.

12/23/80 – Activated Calvin Garrett from the injured list; placed John Stroud on the injured list.

2/11/81 – Placed Rudy Tomjanovich on the injured list; activated John Stroud from the injured list.

2/27/81 – Activated Rudy Tomjanovich from the injured list; placed John Stroud on the injured list.

Note: the Rockets finished the season with 12 players on their roster, including one on the injured list (John Stroud). Stroud remained inactive for the playoffs.

NOTES/DISCREPANCIES

Lee Johnson:

There are gaps/discrepancies concerning both how Johnson came to be on the Rockets’ start of season roster, and how he subsequently left.

Johnson was the Rockets’ first round pick in 1979, but he did not play for the team (or in the NBA at all) during the 1979-80 season. He made his NBA debut when he opened the 1980-81 season on the Rockets’ roster. It is not clear to me how it came about that Johnson didn’t play in the NBA in 1979-80, then ended up the Rockets’ 1980-81 opening night roster. Contemporary newspaper articles in the Google News Archive report that Johnson signed a nonguaranteed contract with the Rockets in July 1979. It is also well-documented that Johnson played in Italy for Rieti during the 1979-80 season. But I have never seen any documentation of how he left the Rockets’ roster before the 1979-80 season, or rejoined the team after that season.

The simplest explanation is that Johnson was waived in the fall of 1979, then re-signed with the Rockets following the 1979-80 season. But I’ve never seen either of those transactions reported anywhere. There is nothing in the Globe transaction columns, and I can’t find anything in the Google News Archive. Johnson’s entry in the 1981-82 edition of the NBA Register shows no transactions between the time the Rockets drafted him and the time they waived him during the 1980-81 season, implying that he was the property of the Rockets all along.

The absence of any reports of Johnson being waived and later re-signed make me wonder if that’s not actually what happened. Could he have left training camp in the fall of 1979 to seek better opportunities in Europe, and the Rockets decided not to stand in his way, but placed him on the suspended list to preserve their NBA rights over him? If it became apparent at some point before the 1979-80 season that Johnson needed more seasoning, could Johnson and the Rockets have even mutually agreed to such an arrangement? To add to the intrigue, Houston’s selection of Johnson in the first round of the ’79 draft was apparently a surprise, as he was not a well-known prospect. There was some suspicion that the team had spent their first round selection on a relatively obscure player as a money-saving move. Johnson’s subsequent signing of a nonguaranteed contract didn’t exactly serve to dissuade people from that belief. As an AP wire service story on Johnson’s signing in the 7/8/79 Lawrence (Kans.) Journal-World puts it, “The non-guaranteed contract may explain why the Rockets passed over more established college stars to take a sleeper in the 6-foot-11 inch, 215-pound Johnson”. The Rockets subsequently “stashing” Johnson in Europe for a year would be consistent with that view.

The 1981-82 NBA Register reports that the Rockets waived Johnson on 12/1/80. b-r.com shows the 12/1 date as well, likely using the Register as its source. The problem with that date is that, by all appearances, Johnson was waived to make room for Bill Willoughby. These sources show Willoughby signing with the Rockets on 11/27/80, and Willoughby appeared in his first game for the Rockets on 11/28. Consequently, I don’t see how Johnson could have been on the Rockets’ roster any later than 11/28.

A check of contemporary media sources suggests that Johnson was waived at the same time Willoughby was signed, although they are a bit confusing with regard to the date. The Globe transaction column reported the signing of Willoughby and waiving of Johnson in the 11/29 issue, then reported it again in the 11/30 issue. The Google News Archive also has two newspapers reporting both Willoughby’s signing and Jonson’s waiving in a single transaction report: the 11/29 Eugene (Ore.) Register Guard and the 12/1 Milwaukee Sentinel.

Here’s what I am getting out of all of this: 1) Johnson was waived at the same time Willoughby was signed, not several days later, as we have multiple contemporary media accounts reporting the two transactions happening at the same time; 2) these transactions must have occurred no later than 11/28, since they were reported in the 11/29 Globe and Register-Guard, and since Willoughby played in his first game for the Rockets on 11/28; 3) the 11/27 date reported in the Register for Willoughby’s signing is plausible for both. In light of all that, I am writing up both Willoughby’s signing and Johnson’s waiving on 11/27.

That leaves us with the question of why the Register is reporting this transaction as having happened on 12/1 if it really happened on 11/27 (or at the latest, 11/28). 12/1 is not an obvious typo of 11/27 or 11/28. Is this another example of a waiver transaction being written up “baseball style” (showing the date the player cleared waivers rather than the date the player was placed on waivers), as theorized in the Lakers article? Or as I’ve asked in the past, is there just some aspect of NBA waiver procedure in this era that I’m not grasping, which explains why we keep finding these odd “a couple of days later” discrepancies on waiver transactions?

Compensation for Bill Willoughby:

I don’t have any explicit documentation of what date the Rockets sent compensation for Willoughby to the Cavaliers, but in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I am assuming that it happened at the same time Willoughby signed with the Rockets. Willoughby has to have been a fairly minor free agent and I don’t see why working out compensation for him would have needed to be a protracted process. (pst.com has it on the same date, but I’m not sure if Frank found a source explicitly stating that, or if he’s simply making the same assumption that I am.) None of the few contemporary media reports of Willoughby’s signing that I was able to find mention compensation.

The NBA Register indicates that the Rockets sent a 1981 3rd round pick to the Cavaliers as compensation for Willoughby. b-r.com and pst.com show the same, although in both cases the Register may be their ultimate source.

Injured list transactions:

10/9/80: John Stroud placed on the IL, the day before the start of the regular season. My source for Stroud being placed on the injured list on this date is an AP wire service story in the 12/10/80 Spartanburg (S.C.) Journal, found in the Google News Archive, reporting on Stroud being activated from the IL on the previous day. This article states that Stroud had been on the IL since 10/9 due to “influenza”. I was unable to find any reports on Stroud being placed on the IL at the time it happened. The Globe’s transaction column didn’t mention it, and I found nothing in the Google News Archive.

12/9/80: Stroud activated, Calvin Garrett on IL. The transaction column in the following day’s (12/10) Globe only mentions Stroud being activated, but the Google News Archives has transaction columns in the 12/10 Boca Raton (Fla.) News and Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter, as well as an AP wire service story in the Spartanburg (S.C.) Journal, that mention both Stroud being activated and Garrett being placed on the IL.

12/23/80: Garrett activated, Stroud on IL. My source for Garrett being activated on this date is the transaction column in the following day’s Globe (12/24). My source for Stroud being placed on the injured list on this date is an UPI wire service story in the 2/12/81 Bryan (Ohio) Times, reporting on Stroud being activated from the IL on the previous day, which states that Stroud had been on the IL since 12/23 due to “a virus”. I had to look elsewhere for a source on Stroud because the transaction column in the 12/10 Globe only mentions Garrett being activated (it doesn’t say what was done to make room for him on the active roster). I couldn’t find any reports at all in the Google News Archive from the time these transactions happened.

2/11/81: Stroud activated, Rudy Tomjanovich on IL. This was reported in the transaction column in the following day’s (2/12) Globe, and is also in a couple of other 2/12 papers in the Google News Archive.

2/27/81: Tomjanovich activated, Stroud on IL. This was reported in the transaction column in the following day’s (2/28) Globe, and is also in another 2/28 paper in the Google News Archive, the Victoria (Tex.) Advocate. According to the blurb in the Advocate, sourced from the AP, Stroud was placed on the IL this time due to “a back ailment”.

There were two other periods during the second half of the season – one in January and one in March – when Tomjanovich sat out a sufficient number of games that he could have been placed on the IL, but he wasn’t. On both of those occasions, the Rockets simply played shorthanded.

Stroud seems to have been on the Rockets’ roster all season, but was on the injured list for most of the year. He was activated on two occasions, for about two weeks each time.

GAMES STARTED INFO

MEDIA GUIDE

The 2014-15 Rockets Media Guide has regular season games started stats going back to the 1971-72 season, the franchise’s first year in Houston. For 1980-81, it shows the following:

Reid 82
Malone 80
Henderson 45
Tomjanovich 38
Dunleavy 35
Garrett 35
Leavell 32
Paultz 29
Jones 12
Murphy 11
Willoughby 11

Note that the Rockets had a very unstable starting lineup. Eleven players were in double figures in games started, including eight who started at least 29 games, and only one player made more than 45 starts at a single position (that was Malone; Reid’s regular season starts were divided almost evenly between forward and guard).

TSN BOX SCORES

Every TSN box score for the 1980-81 Rockets appears to list the players in “starters first” F-F-C-G-G order. This is the only the second team we’ve encountered where this has been the case. The games started totals for all players are in agreement with those in the Rockets Media Guide, except for the discrepancy noted below.

NOTES/DISCREPANCIES

There is one discrepancy between the Rockets Media Guide and the TSN boxes, involving one game and two players. The Media Guide indicates that Garrett started 35 games, and Leavell 32. The TSN boxes suggest that Garrett started 36 games, and Leavell 31. While Garrett and Leavell were both in and out of the lineup multiple times throughout the season, the most likely source of the discrepancy is the game on 2/14/81. One would have expected Leavell to start this game at guard, as it fell in the middle of a stretch when he otherwise started 28 consecutive games at that position. But the TSN box score lists Garrett in the fifth position (starting guard), with Leavell in the sixth position (first player off the bench).

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 II below. In this case, I think the Media Guide is likely correct anyway. There’s no obvious reason why Garrett would have started that game in place of Leavell. Given the location of each player’s name in the box score, it’s very possible that the two are simply listed out of order.

PLAYOFFS

The 2014-15 Rockets Media Guide has playoff games started stats going back to the 1968-69 season, the first time the franchise made the playoffs. For 1980-81, the Media Guide shows the following:

Henderson 21
Malone 21
Reid 21
Paultz 21
Dunleavy 19
Murphy 1
Willoughby 1

The TSN box scores are in agreement with these totals.
Last edited by MCT on Fri Sep 01, 2017 2:59 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: 1980-81 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby MCT » Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:59 pm

HOUSTON ROCKETS – PART II

PLAYER INFORMATION

With some previous teams, I’ve deviated from our usual “snapshot” timeframe of late February because the team’s lineup at that point wasn’t typical. With the Rockets, one could argue that their late February lineup wasn’t typical, but then it’s hard to say just what was. Consider:

--Eleven players finished the regular season in double figures in games started. Eight of these players started at least 29 games.

--Moses Malone was the only player who made more than 45 regular season starts at a single position. Robert Reid started all 82 games, but they were split between forward and guard.

--I’d say that Calvin Murphy was pretty clearly the third most important player on the team, behind Malone and Reid, but he was used off the bench for most of the season, apparently in a sixth man role.

--Rudy Tomjanovich was the starting power forward for the first half of the season, then apparently suffered an injury in January. He would later return, but only on an intermittent basis, and looks to have been limited to a severely reduced role. It would probably be fair to label him as the last player on the bench during the playoffs (8 of 21 games, 3.9 mpg).

--Calvin Garrett went from being the regular starter at small forward for a sizable chunk of the season (from November until the All-Star break) to probably the second-to-last player on the bench during the playoffs (13 of 21 games, 9.0 mpg).

--Two players who finished the season as starters - Mike Dunleavy and Billy Paultz - were never regular starters until February. Paultz appears to have also been covering the backup center role even as he was starting at power forward.

--A third end-of-season starter, Tom Henderson, was in the starting lineup for most of the first half, then on the bench for most of the second half, only returning to the starting lineup near the end of the regular season.

Against that backdrop, we’ll stick to our usual late February timeframe, as it’s as typical as any. This reflects the roster after the lineup shuffle that took place on 2/4, after Billy Paultz was installed as the starting power forward on 2/19, and after Rudy Tomjanovich was activated from the IL on 2/27. Note that Tomjanovich’s placement reflects his usage in the second half of the season, when he was apparently hampered by injury. The starting lineup reflected here is the same one the Rockets used during the playoffs, with one exception: Henderson would replace Leavell with six games left in the regular season.

MOSES MALONE

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

Games Played (Regular Season 80 G, 40.6 MPG; Playoffs 21 G, 45.5 MPG): The two games in which Malone did not appear were two consecutive games on 12/5/80 & 12/6/80.

Games Started (Regular Season: 80; Playoffs: 21): Malone started every game he played in. If the TSN box scores can be trusted, the vast majority of Malone’s starts were at center, but he also started a few games at power forward. The count I come up with for the regular season is 76 starts at center and 4 at forward, and for the playoffs, 17 games at center and 4 at forward. The four regular season games the TSN box scores show Malone starting at forward were on 2/19/81, two consecutive games on 3/1/81 & 3/4/81, and 3/20/81. The four playoff games the TSN box scores show Malone starting at forward were Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 of the series against San Antonio.

At the start of the season, the Rockets’ starting power forward was Rudy Tomjanovich. Tomjanovich appears to have gotten injured in January, however, and did not start any games after that point. The Rockets tried a few different players as a replacement before finally settling on Billy Paultz, who was more of a natural C than a PF. All of the games that Malone is shown starting at PF were during the portion of the season when Paultz was starting, and Paultz is shown as the starting center in all of those games (the game on 2/19 was Paultz’ first game in the starting lineup). Malone and Paultz essentially swapped starting positions for these games. I don’t know if there is any significance to the games where Paultz is shown as the C and Malone the PF, or anything that makes them different from the other games where Malone is shown as the C and Paultz the PF.

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 1980-81, except for one (1975-76, which is shown as PF).

ROBERT REID

History: 2nd round pick of Rockets in 1977.

Games Played (Regular Season 82 G, 36.1 MPG; Playoffs 21 G, 41.3 MPG): Reid appeared in every game the Rockets played.

Games Started (Regular Season: 82; Playoffs: 21): Reid started every game the Rockets played. Based on the TSN box scores, however, Reid’s starts were divided between forward and guard. Reid began the season starting at small forward. In early November, he switched to starting at shooting guard, and typically started at that position until early February. Just after the All-Star break, Reid went back to starting at small forward, which would remain his usual starting position for the rest of the season. Reid did start a few games at forward during the portion of the season when his normal starting position was guard, however, and vice versa. For the regular season as a whole, the TSN boxes have Reid starting 43 games at forward and 39 games at guard; for the playoffs, 20 games at forward and 1 game at guard. Further details:

--Reid started the first 11 games of the season (through 11/8) at small forward.

--At that point, the Rockets moved starting guard Calvin Murphy to the bench (probably with the intention of using Murphy in a sixth man type of role), and shifted Reid to starting at SG. Calvin Garrett took over as the starting SF. Of the 20 games from 11/11/80 through 12/17/80, the TSN box scores show Reid starting at guard in 19 and forward in 1. The one game Reid is shown starting at forward was on 11/20. If the TSN box scores can be trusted, Reid and Garrett swapped starting positions for that one game, with Reid at SF and Garrett at SG.

--From 12/19/80 through 12/26/80, Reid moved back to starting at small forward for five games. This move was made during a period when Garrett was on the injured list. The Rockets had tried a couple of other players as replacements for Garrett, but apparently decided that they needed Reid to adequately cover the small forward position until Garrett was back. Mike Dunleavy started at guard in Reid’s place in most of the games in this stretch. For the fourth game in this stretch (12/23), Garrett returned from the IL, but played off the bench. For the fifth and last game (12/26), Garrett returned to the starting lineup, but the TSN box score shows him starting at SG, displacing Dunleavy.

--For the Rockets’ next game, on 12/27, things returned to the way they had been before Garrett went on the IL, with Reid starting at SG and Garrett starting at SF. Reid started all 18 games from 12/27/80 through 2/3/80 at guard. The last game in this stretch was the Rockets’ first game after the All-Star break.

--On 2/4, with 28 games remaining in the regular season, Reid moved back to starting at small forward. This may have initially been done due to Garrett being unavailable (Garrett looks like he may have been struggling with an injury around this time, and he didn’t play on 2/4, or in the next game on 2/6), but Reid would stay at forward more-or-less permanently from this point on, with Garrett going to the bench. Reid started 26 of the final 28 regular season games and 20 of the Rockets’ 21 playoff game at forward. Meanwhile, Mike Dunleavy took over starting duties again at guard. The few games after 2/4 that Reid started at guard were all games in which Dunleavy did not play, so Reid was shifted to guard to cover. This includes two regular season games (two consecutive games on 2/28/81 & 3/1/81) and one playoff game (4/29/81, Game 5 of the Kansas City series).

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 1980-81. Two seasons are shown as SG (1986-87 and 1987-88).

MIKE DUNLEAVY

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

Games Played (Regular Season 74 G, 21.7 MPG; Playoffs 20 G, 23.6 MPG): The eight regular season games in which Dunleavy did not appear were on 10/12/80, 11/8/80, 12/27/80, two consecutive games on 1/2/81 & 1/3/81, 1/17/81, and two consecutive games on 2/28/81 & 3/1/81. The playoff game Dunleavy did not play in was Game 5 of the series against Kansas City.

Games Started (Regular Season: 35; Playoffs: 19): Dunleavy started on 11/24/80; four consecutive games from 12/19/80 through 12/23/80; four consecutive games from 1/9/81 through 1/16/81; 26 of the last 28 games of the regular season (from 2/4/81 on; all except for two consecutive games on 2/28/80 & 3/1/80, when he didn’t play), and 19 of the Rockets’ 21 playoff games (all except Game 7 of the San Antonio series and Game 5 of the Kansas City series; Dunleavy didn’t play in the latter game).

Dunleavy started on 11/24 in place of regular starting guard Tom Henderson, who didn’t play in that game. His stretch of starts beginning on 12/19 came at a time when starting small forward Calvin Garrett was on the injured list. After trying a couple of other players in Garrett’s place, the Rockets shifted Robert Reid, who had been starting at SG, to cover SF until Garrett returned (Reid had begun the season as the starting SF, but had been switched to starting at SG in November). Dunleavy then made these starts at guard in place of Reid. Dunleavy went back to the bench when Garrett returned to the starting lineup. Dunleavy’s stretch of starts beginning on 1/9 came during a period when Henderson, who had been starting at point guard, was out of the starting lineup, presumably due to injury. Allen Leavell had started the first four games from which Henderson was absent, but the Rockets then replaced him with Dunleavy for four games. Henderson was by then ready to return to starting, so Dunleavy again went back to the bench.

On 2/4, the Rockets moved Robert Reid from starting at SG back to starting at SF. When this happened, Dunleavy took over as the starter in the vacated guard slot, and held it down for the rest of the season. After 2/4, there were only four games – two regular season and two playoff – that Dunleavy didn’t start. Three of these were games he didn’t play in (regular season games on 2/28 & 3/1, and Game 5 of the playoff series against Kansas City). The other game was Game 7 of the playoff series against San Antonio. Why Dunleavy didn’t start in this game is unclear to me, as he did play in the game. Calvin Murphy started instead.

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. 1980-81 is shown as SG.

ALLEN LEAVELL

History: 5th round pick of Rockets in 1979.

Games Played (Regular Season 79 G, 21.3 MPG; Playoffs 17 G, 12.8 MPG): The three regular season games in which Leavell did not appear were two consecutive games on 12/13/80 & 12/17/80, and one additional game on 3/20/81. Leavell is also missing from the TSN box score for the game on 12/5/80, but b-r.com’s sortable box score and game log feature show Leavell playing in that game, and I believe that is correct. See under John Stroud, below, for further discussion of the 12/5/80 TSN box score.

Leavell appears in 16 of the TSN box scores for the playoffs, but b-r.com shows him playing in 17 playoff games, which matches his official total. The four playoff games b-r.com shows Leavell not playing in are Games 1, 4 and 6 of the series against San Antonio, and Game 4 of the Finals against Boston. The source of the discrepancy between the TSN boxes scores and b-r.com is Game 2 of the Los Angeles series. Leavell is absent from the TSN box score for that game, but b-r.com’s sortable box score and game log feature indicate that Leavell played in that game. b-r.com credits Leavell with scoring four points on two field goals; an examination of the TSN box scores reveals that the totals for the Rockets players listed in the box score are short of the team totals by those amounts. Either Dick Pfander or b-r.com must have noticed these discrepancies and determined that Leavell actually played in this game. Whether they found actual evidence that Leavell played and accumulated those totals (such as a news story, or a box score from another source), or just assumed that he must have (because doing so would resolve the discrepancies in the stats, including Leavell’s games played total for the playoffs), is unclear to me.

Games Started (Regular Season: 32; Playoffs: 0): Leavell started four consecutive games from 1/1/81 through 1/7/81, and 28 consecutive games from 1/21/81 through 3/19/81. Leavell initially went into the starting lineup on 1/1 as a replacement for Tom Henderson, who had been starting at point guard, but was absent from a stretch of games beginning on that date. After four games, Leavell was replaced by Mike Dunleavy for the next four games, then Henderson returned to the starting lineup for two games. At that point, Henderson again was absent from a stretch of games, and Leavell went back in the starting lineup, on 1/21. This time, he would stay for nearly two months. Henderson missed a number of games during this period, but when he played, he came off the bench. On 3/20, with six games remaining in the regular season, Henderson returned to the starting lineup and Leavell went back to the bench.

As discussed earlier, there is a one-game discrepancy in Leavell’s regular season games started. The Rockets Media Guide credits him with 32 starts, but the TSN box scores suggest that he started 31 games, with the discrepancy involving a game on 2/14/81. The analysis above assumes that the Media Guide number of 32 is correct.

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 from 1979-80 through 1986-87 (including 1980-81), then as SG for his last two seasons in the NBA (1987-88 and 1988-89).

BILLY PAULTZ

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

Games Played (Regular Season 81 G, 20.5 MPG; Playoffs 21 G, 34.3 MPG): The only game in which Paultz did not appear was on 2/23/81.

Games Started (Regular Season: 29; Playoffs: 21): Paultz started two consecutive games on 11/29/80 & 11/30/80; two consecutive games on 12/5/80 & 12/6/80; three consecutive games from 12/12/80 through 12/17/80; a single game on 1/9/81; 21 of the final 22 games of the regular season (from 2/19/80 onward), and all 21 of the Rockets’ playoff games. For the regular season, the TSN box scores show Paultz starting 23 games at forward and 6 at center; for the playoffs, 17 games at forward and 4 at center. Further details:

--Paultz started at power forward on 11/29 & 11/30. Regular starter Rudy Tomjanovich did not play in these games.

--Paultz started at center on 12/5 & 12/6. Regular starting center Moses Malone did not play in these games.

--In early December, regular starting small forward Calvin Garrett went on the injured list. For his first game out, Bill Willoughby started at forward in his place. For the next game, on 12/12, Willoughby went back to the bench and the Rockets started Paultz at forward instead.

--For the next two games after that, on 12/13 & 12/17, regular starting power forward Rudy Tomjanovich also dropped out of the starting lineup (it isn’t clear to me why, as Tomjanovich played in both games). The Rockets started Paultz and Willoughby in the two forward slots. After these two games, Tomjanovich returned to the starting lineup, and the Rockets apparently decided to shift Robert Reid back to starting at small forward until Garrett returned. This ended any need for Paultz or Willoughby to start, so both went back to the bench.

--Paultz started at forward on 1/9 in place of Rudy Tomjanovich, who did not play in that game. This game marked the beginning of an extended absence for Tomjanovich, who would not start any further games for the remainder of the season. He later returned to action, but was only able to serve in a reduced role off the bench. This required the Rockets to find someone else to fill the starting power forward role. Paultz initially filled the role for only the one game on 1/9 before yielding to Major Jones. Jones didn’t hang onto the job permanently, and was later replaced by Bill Willoughby.

--On 2/19, the Rockets replaced Willoughby in the starting lineup with Paultz. At that point, the Rockets had 22 games remaining in the regular season. Paultz would start 21 of them - all except the game he didn’t play in on 2/23 - plus all of the Rockets’ playoff games. Most of these starts were at power forward (17 of the 21 regular season games, and 17 of the 21 playoff games), but the TSN box scores show Paultz starting at center in four of the regular season games and four of the playoff games. The four regular season games were on 2/19/81 (Paultz’ first game in the starting lineup), two consecutive games on 3/1/81 & 3/4/81, and 3/20/81. The four playoff games were Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 of the series against San Antonio. In all of these games, regular starting center Moses Malone is shown starting at PF; Malone and Paultz essentially swapped starting positions for these games. I don’t know if there is any significance to the games where Paultz is shown as the C and Malone the PF, or anything that makes them different from the other games where Malone is shown as the C and Paultz the PF.

b-r.com position info: Position in old b-r.com header is listed as Center-Forward. Primary position is shown as PF for 1980-81, but is C for all other seasons of career. I can’t speak for how Paultz was used in other seasons, but I think b-r.com’s assessment that Paultz’ primary position this year was PF is correct, although he likely saw significant time at both PF and C.

CALVIN MURPHY

History: 2nd round pick of Rockets in 1970.

Games Played (Regular Season 76 G, 26.5 MPG; Playoffs 19 G, 28.4 MPG): The six regular season games in which Murphy did not appear were two consecutive games on 11/26/80 & 11/28/80, two consecutive games on 12/12/80 & 12/13/80, and single games on 1/10/81 and 1/28/81. The two playoff games Murphy did not play in were Games 4 and 6 of the Finals against Boston.

Games Started (Regular Season: 11; Playoffs: 1): Murphy started the first 11 games of the regular season (through 11/8/80), then went to the bench. I would guess that this move was made less as a benching of Murphy and more to deploy him in a sixth man type of role. For the season as a whole, Murphy ranked third on the team in both minutes played and points scored (second in points per game), so he was clearly one of the team’s most important players, even if he was playing off the bench. The playoff game that Murphy started was Game 7 of the series against San Antonio, in place of regular starter Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy played in that game, so why Murphy started isn’t clear to me.

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, including 1980-81. Two seasons are shown as SG (1977-78 and 1979-80).

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, 21.4 MPG; Playoffs 21 G, 29.3 MPG): The 16 regular season games in which Henderson did not appear in were on 11/24/80, four consecutive games from 1/1/81 through 1/7/81, three consecutive games from 1/21/81 through 1/24/81, 2/3/81 (first game after the All-Star break), two consecutive games on 2/13/81 & 2/14/81, 2/20/81, 2/13/81, 2/27/81, 3/4/81, and 3/14/81. In the period from 2/13 to 3/4, Henderson was absent from 6 out of 11 games.

Games Started (Regular Season: 45; Playoffs: 21): Henderson started 37 of the first 38 games of the season (through 12/30/80; the only game he didn’t start during this period was the one he didn’t play in on 11/24/80); two consecutive games on 1/17/81 & 1/18/81; the last six games of the regular season (from 3/20 on); and all 21 of the Rockets’ playoff games.

Henderson’s initial run of starting 37 of the first 38 games of the season was snapped by the stretch of games he was absent from beginning on 1/1, presumably due to injury. After four games out of the lineup and four off the bench, Henderson returned to the starting lineup for the two games on 1/17 & 1/18. Any possibility of extending that streak ended when he missed the next three games. After Henderson returned, he was used off the bench for the remainder of January, through February and into March. Henderson was absent from a number of games during this period, and may have continued to struggle with injuries; it’s hard to tell if/to what extent he was restricted due to injury versus simply benched. Throughout most of the period when Henderson was out of the starting lineup, Allen Leavell started in his place. On 3/20, with six games remaining in the regular season, Henderson went back into the starting lineup, and remained there through the end of the playoffs.

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 from 1974-75 to 1979-80, then as SG for last three seasons in NBA, beginning with 1980-81.

BILL WILLOUGHBY

History: 2nd round pick of Hawks in 1975. Signed as Veteran Free Agent, November 1980 (compensation owed to Cavaliers).

Willoughby did not start the season with the Rockets. After playing for the Cavaliers in 1979-80, he became a Veteran Free Agent at the end of the season, and remained unsigned into the early part of the 1980-81 season. The Rockets signed Willoughby on 11/27, sending a 3rd round pick to the Cavaliers as compensation, and waiving Lee Johnson to make room on the roster.

Games Played (Regular Season 55 G, 20.8 MPG; Playoffs 19 G, 21.9 MPG): When Willoughby signed with the Rockets, they had 61 games remaining in the regular season. Willoughby appeared in all but six of these games, and all but two of the Rockets’ 21 playoff games. The six regular season games after 11/27 in which Willoughby did not appear were on 12/23/80, 12/30/80, two consecutive games on 1/14/81 & 1/16/81, and two consecutive games on 3/6/81 & 3/7/81. The two playoff games Willoughby did not play in were Games 5 & 6 of the series against San Antonio.

Games Started (Regular Season: 11; Playoffs: 1): During the regular season, Willoughby started three games in a four-game stretch from 12/10/80 through 12/17/80 (started on 12/10, did not start on 12/12, started on 12/13 & 12/17), two consecutive games on 1/28/81 & 1/29/81, and six consecutive games from 2/4/81 through 2/14/81. In the playoffs, Willoughby started on 4/29/81 (Game 5 of the series against Kansas City).

All of Willoughby’s starts were essentially as a fill-in for a regular starting forward who was unavailable. Willoughby started on 12/10 in place of Calvin Garrett, who had been placed on the IL. For the next game on 12/12, Willoughby was replaced by Billy Paultz, but Rudy Tomjanovich’s subsequent disappearance from the lineup for two games led to the Rockets using a starting forward tandem of Paultz and Willoughby on 12/13 & 12/17. For the next game after that, Tomjanovich returned to the starting lineup, and the Rockets apparently decided to shift Robert Reid back to starting at small forward until Garrett returned, ending any need for Paultz or Willoughby to start. The two games Willoughby started on 1/28 & 1/29 were again in place of Garrett, who did not play in the first of those two games. Garrett would soon drop out of the starting lineup, but the Rockets would replace him by shifting Reid back to small forward.

The six games Willoughby started in February were in the slot that had opened up when Rudy Tomjanovich apparently suffered an injury in January, causing him to drop out of the starting lineup. Billy Paultz started Tomjanovich’s first game out of the lineup, then Major Jones was used as the starter for a while. Willoughby subsequently replaced Jones, then was in turn replaced by Paultz. Willoughby’s playoff start came in a game in which regular starting SG Mike Dunleavy did not play, and Robert Reid was shifted from starting at SF to SG to cover for Dunleavy. Willoughby started at forward in Reid’s place.

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

CALVIN GARRETT

History: 3rd round pick of Bulls in 1979, as a junior eligible; returned to college for 1979-80 season; rights traded to Rockets and signed with Rockets rather than re-enter that year’s draft, June 1980.

Games Played (Regular Season 70 G, 23.4 MPG; Playoffs 13 G, 9.0 MPG): The 12 regular season games in which Garrett did not appear were seven consecutive games from 12/10/80 through 12/21/80, a single game on 1/28/81, two consecutive games on 2/4/81 & 2/6/81, and two games in a three-game stretch near the end of the regular season (did not play on 3/24, played on 3/25, did not play on 3/27; the game on 3/27 was the Rockets’ second-to-last game of the regular season). Garrett was on the injured list from 12/9/80 to 12/23/80, covering the entire 7-game stretch that he missed in December, with John Stroud activated to take his place.

In the playoffs, Garrett appeared in Games 1 and 3 of the series against Los Angeles; Games 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the series against San Antonio; Games 1 and 5 of the series against Kansas City; and Games 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the Finals against Boston.

Games Started (Regular Season: 35; Playoffs: 0): Garrett started 16 consecutive games from 11/11/80 through 12/16/80; 16 consecutive games from 12/26/80 through 1/24/81, a single game on 2/3/81, and two consecutive games on 2/28/81 & 3/1/81. If the TSN box scores can be trusted, the vast majority of Garrett’s starts were at SF, but he also started a few games at SG. The count I come up with is 33 games at forward and 2 games at guard. Further details:

--Garrett moved into the starting lineup on 11/11, as the Rockets moved incumbent starting guard Calvin Murphy to the bench (probably so that Murphy could be used in a sixth man type of role), shifted starting SF Robert Reid to SG, and installed Garrett as the starting SF. Garrett remained in the starting lineup until going on the injured list on 12/9. For one game, on 11/20, the TSN boxes show Garrett and Reid swapping positions, with Garrett starting at SG and Reid at SF. While Garrett was on the IL, the Rockets tried a couple of other players to replace him, then moved Reid back to SF, replacing Reid at guard with Mike Dunleavy.

--Garrett returned from the injured list on 12/23. He came off the bench in his first game back (12/23). For his next game (12/26), he returned to the starting lineup, but the TSN box scores shows him at SG rather than SF, displacing Dunleavy. For the next game after that (12/27), things returned to the way they had been before Garrett went on the IL, with Reid starting at SG and Garrett starting at SF. Garrett started every game at SF through 1/24.

--Garrett then went through a period where it looks like he may have been struggling with an injury. Whether directly caused by this or not, he would end up dropping out of the starting lineup. Garrett did not play on 1/28 (Bill Willoughby started in his place), came off the bench on 1/29 (Willoughby started again), started on 2/3 (first game after the All-Star break), then did not play in the next two games (2/4 & 2/6). Robert Reid moved back to starting at SF for those two games, and would stay in that role more-or-less permanently, even after Garrett returned. Mike Dunleavy again took Reid’s place starting at guard. Garrett went to the bench.

--After 2/3, Garrett made just two more starts, which were in two consecutive games on 2/28/81 & 3/1/81. Dunleavy did not play in these two games, and Reid started at guard to cover, with Garrett covering the starting SF role in place of Reid.

As discussed earlier, there is a one-game discrepancy in Garrett’s regular season games started. The Rockets Media Guide credits him with 35 starts, but the TSN box scores suggest that he started 36 games, with the discrepancy involving a game on 2/14/81. The analysis above assumes that the Media Guide number of 35 is correct.

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.

MAJOR JONES

History: 2nd round pick of Blazers in 1976. Signed as a free agent, September 1979.

Games Played (Regular Season 68 G, 14.8 MPG; Playoffs 12 G, 7.3 MPG): The 14 regular season games in which Jones did not appear were on 11/15/80, 12/10/80, two consecutive games on 12/13/81 & 12/17/80, 1/2/81, four games in a five-game stretch from 2/11/81 through 2/20/81 (did not play in three consecutive games from 2/11/81 through 2/14/81, played on 2/19/81, did not play on 2/20/81), 2/28/81, 3/4/81, two consecutive games on 3/13/81 & 3/14/81, and 3/20/81.

In the playoffs, Jones appeared in six of the seven games of the series against San Antonio (all except Game 4); Games 1, 2 and 4 of the series against Kansas City; and Games 3, 5 and 6 of the Finals against Boston. Note that Jones did not appear in any games of the First Round series against Los Angeles.

Games Started (Regular Season: 12; Playoffs: 0): Jones started 11 consecutive games from 1/10/81 through 2/3/81 (the first game after the All-Star break), and one additional game on 2/23/81. All of these games came after regular starting PF Rudy Tomjanovich apparently suffered an injury in January, causing him to drop out of the starting lineup. Billy Paultz started Tomjanovich’s first game out of the lineup, but the Rockets then turned to Jones, who started the next 11 games. Jones was then replaced by Bill Willoughby, who was in turn later replaced by Paultz, who held down the role for the rest of the season. Jones’ final start on 2/23 came as a fill-in for Paultz, who did not play in that 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.

RUDY TOMJANOVICH

History: 1st round pick of Rockets in 1970.

Games Played (Regular Season 52 G, 24.3 MPG; Playoffs 8 G, 3.9 MPG): Tomjanovich played in 40 of the first 42 games of the season, at which point he appears to have gotten injured. For the remainder of the regular season, Tomjanovich played only sporadically, appearing in just 12 more games. In the postseason, he appeared in just 8 of the Rockets’ 21 playoff games. Further details:

--Of the Rockets’ first 42 games, through 1/7/81, there were only two games Tomjanovich did not play in. These were two consecutive games on 11/29/80 & 11/30/80.

--Tomjanovich was absent from nine consecutive games from 1/9/81 through 1/24/81. He then returned to play in five consecutive games from 1/28/81 through 2/6/81. These were the two games immediately before, and three games immediately after, the All-Star break.

--Tomjanovich was then absent from ten consecutive games from 2/7/81 through 2/27/81. For most of this period, from 2/11/81 to 2/27/81, he was on the injured list, with John Stroud activated to take his place. Tomjanovich returned to play in five consecutive games from 2/28/81 through 3/7/81.

--Following that stretch, Tomjanovich was absent from nine consecutive games from 3/11/81 through 3/25/81. He returned to play in the last two games of the regular season, on 3/27/81 & 3/29/81.

--In the playoffs, Tomjanovich appeared in Games 1, 3, 4 and 6 of the series against San Antonio; Game 1 of the series against Kansas City; and Games 1, 3 and 5 of the Finals against Boston. Note that Tomjanovich did not appear in any games of the First Round series against Los Angeles.

Down the stretch, even when he did play, I suspect that Tomjanovich was seeing very little playing time, presumably limited by injury. From 2/28 on, Tomjanovich appeared in fifteen regular season or playoff games. He was the last player listed in the box score in 13 of them (which I take to mean that he was the last player to enter the game, among those Rockets who played), and scored no more than four points in any of those games. From the resources at my disposal, I don’t have any way to determine how many minutes Tomjanovich played in each game, but in the playoffs he saw just 31 minutes of playing time across eight games (3.9 mpg). Tomjanovich scored just 6 points in the playoffs (0.8 ppg), with no more than two points in any game.

Games Started (Regular Season: 38; Playoffs: 0): Tomjanovich started 38 of the Rockets’ first 42 regular season games (through 1/7). The four games he did not start during this stretch were two consecutive games on 11/29/80 & 11/30/80, and two consecutive games on 12/13/80 & 12/17/80. Tomjanovich did not play in the games on 11/29/80 & 11/30/80. He played in the games on 12/13/80 & 12/17/80, so I’m not sure why he didn’t start. This stretch ended when Tomjanovich disappeared from the lineup for an extended period, apparently due to injury. When he returned to action later in the season, he was used strictly off the bench, and did not start any further games.

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 1980-81, except for one (1977-78, which is shown as SF).

INJURED LIST:

JOHN STROUD

History: 2nd round pick of Rockets in 1980.

Games Played (Regular Season 9 G, 9.8 MPG): Stroud was on the Rockets’ roster all season, but was on the injured list for most of the year. He was activated briefly on two occasions. The first was from 12/9/80 to 12/23/80, while Calvin Garrett was on the injured list. The second was from 2/11/81 to 2/27/81, while Rudy Tomjanovich was on the injured list. During the first stretch, Stroud appeared in every game the Rockets played, seven consecutive games from 12/10/80 through 12/21/80. During the second stretch, Stroud played in two more games, which were on 2/19/81 and 2/22/81.

b-r.com’s sortable box score and game log feature show Stroud playing only in the 9 games described above, but the TSN box scores actually show Stroud appearing in 10 games. The extra game is on 12/5/80. b-r.com does not show Stroud playing in that game, and I believe b-r.com is correct. If Stroud were activated for that game, another player would have needed to be placed on the injured list. Based on which players’ names appear in other box scores around this date, I don’t see how that would have been possible. The Rockets used 11 players in their last game before 12/5 (which was on 12/3), which would represent their entire active roster. If a player was placed on the injured list following the game on 12/3, he would have needed to miss five games before he could be activated again. All 11 of the players who played on 12/3 appear in the box score for at least one of the next two games, however. Along the same lines, we have documentation from contemporary media sources of Stroud being activated from the injured list on 12/9. If he was on the active roster on 12/5, he would have to have been placed on the injured list at some point between 12/5 and 12/9, then activated again on 12/9. I don’t see how that could have happened, because there is no way Stroud could have spent the minimum five games on the IL during that timeframe. The Rockets only played one game in between 12/5 and the date of their next game following 12/9 (which was on 12/10).

So who does the statistical line attributed to Stroud in the 12/5 box score belong to? According to b-r.com, it’s complicated. b-r.com shows that Allen Leavell, who does not appear in the TSN box score, played in this game. That makes sense, in that Leavell is credited with playing in 79 regular season games but only appears in the TSN box scores for 78. Crediting him with playing in this game makes his games played total agree. But it’s not a simple matter of the box score saying “Stroud” where it should say “Leavell”. b-r.com shows that the stats attributed to Stroud in the TSN box score actually belong to Mike Dunleavy, while the stats attributed to Dunleavy in the TSN box score are really Leavell’s. Presumably either Dick Pfander or b-r.com noticed that something wasn’t right with this box score, and tracked down the correct data. As to how the TSN box score got so fouled up, and how Stroud’s name got into it at all, your guess is as good as mine.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): Stroud 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; this is the only season that Stroud played in the NBA.

NO LONGER WITH TEAM:

LEE JOHNSON

History: 1st round pick of Rockets in 1979. (Note: Johnson did not play in the NBA during the 1979-80 season, so even though he had come out of college a year earlier, he had no regular-season NBA experience prior to this season. It is not clear to me how it came about that Johnson didn’t play in the NBA in 1979-80, then ended up the Rockets’ 1980-81 opening night roster; see the discussion under in-season transactions in Part I.)

Johnson started the season with the Rockets, but was waived to make room on the active roster for Bill Willoughby when the Rockets signed Willoughby in late November. As discussed earlier, there is some discrepancy among sources as to exactly what date Johnson was waived, but it appears to have been on 11/27/80. He was certainly off the Rockets’ active roster by the time of their game on 11/28.

Games Played (Regular Season 10 G, 8.0 MPG): The Rockets played 21 games while Johnson was with the team. He appeared in 10 of them. Johnson started off the season by playing in seven of the Rockets’ first eight games (seven consecutive games from 10/12/80 – the Rockets’ second game of the season – through 10/25/80). After that, he only played in three further games, which were on 11/11/80, 11/18/80, and 11/21/80. Later in the season, Johnson was picked up by the Pistons on a 10-day contract, and he appeared in two additional games with them, bringing his season total up to 12. Those 12 games were the only NBA games Johnson would ever appear in.

Games Started (Regular Season: 0): Johnson 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 PF; this is the only season that Johnson played in the NBA.
Last edited by MCT on Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.
MCT
 
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Re: 1980-81 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby MCT » Wed Feb 17, 2016 3:01 pm

HOUSTON ROCKETS – PART III

PLAYERS BY POSITION

STARTERS

As noted earlier, the Rockets’ starting lineup was anything but stable. Let’s look at each position:

C: this was the one position where there was a consistent starter all year long, which was Moses Malone.

PF: Rudy Tomjanovich started for about the first half of the season, then dropped out of the lineup with an apparent injury. He later returned to action, but was only able to serve in a reduced role off the bench. In his absence from the starting lineup, the Rockets tried Major Jones, then Bill Willoughby, before finally settling on Billy Paultz in February. With regard to Paultz, it appears to me that, prior to becoming the starting PF, he had been both the backup C and one of two or three players who jointly covered the backup PF role. Even after he became the starting PF, he likely continued to serve as the backup C.

SF: Robert Reid started for the first month of the season, then was shifted to starting at SG. Calvin Garrett took over at SF at that point, and started for most of the period through early February, just after the All-Star break. Reid was then shifted back to starting at SF, a role he would stay in for the remainder of the season.

SG: Calvin Murphy began the season as the starter, but was moved to the bench about a month into the season. This move was likely made less as a benching of Murphy and more to free him up to be deployed in a sixth man role. To replace him in the starting lineup, Robert Reid was shifted from starting at SF to starting at SG, a job he would hold down for most of the period through early February, just after the All-Star break. At that point, Reid was shifted back to starting at SF, and Mike Dunleavy took over at SG.

PG: Tom Henderson started for about the first half of the season, then appears to have encountered injury issues. The Rockets rotated a few different players through during January before settling on Allen Leavell, who would start for most of the rest of the regular season, even after Henderson returned to action. With six games remaining in the regular season, however, Henderson re-took the starting position, and would hold it down through the playoffs.

Our “snapshot” starting lineup, reflecting the starters as of late February, was Malone, Paultz, Reid, Leavell and Dunleavy.

Of the forwards listed above, b-r.com shows Tomjanovich, Jones and Paultz as PFs, and Reid and Garrett as SFs. The only place where b-r.com’s assessment does not agree with mine is with Willoughby. b-r.com shows Willoughby’s primary position as SF, but I have him starting for a time at PF. My sense is that Willoughby could play both forward slots, and in fact did so for the Rockets this year, so the above statements don’t necessarily contradict each other. Note that, even though b-r.com shows Willoughby’s primary position as SF for every season of his career, his old b-r.com header lists him as an F-C. This suggests that he was capable of being pressed into “big man” duty when needed.

Guard is a bit more complicated. It seems to me that the Rockets had a backcourt full of combo guards, and figuring out who played PG and who played SG may be an inexact science. For 1980-81, b-r.com shows Henderson and Dunleavy with a primary position of SG, and Leavell and Murphy SG. Reid was also in the mix, presumably at SG. (Reid switched back and forth between forward and guard, and b-r.com has his primary position as SF, but the only guard position b-r.com shows as Reid’s primary position for any year in his career is SG.) All of those players except for Reid have at least one NBA season where their primary position was listed at the other guard slot, however. In fact, Murphy, Henderson and Dunleavy were all shown at the opposite guard position in 1979-80. Leavell seems to have been solidly in the PG camp at this point in time, as his only seasons shown with a primary position of SG were much later in his career.

I have Murphy, Reid and Dunleavy starting at SG. b-r.com agrees on Dunleavy, and offers no dispute on Reid (as noted, the only guard position b-r.com shows as Reid’s primary position for any year in his career is SG). b-r.com has Murphy’s primary position as PG, however. When I say I have Murphy starting at SG, though, I’m only talking about the portion of the season when he was starting, which was brief. We’re only talking about a short time period, and Murphy and Henderson were both capable of playing either backcourt role, so it’s hard to say with certainty who was the PG and who was the SG. And for most of the season Murphy was used as a sixth man, and in that role he almost certainly saw significant action at both guard slots. It’s hard to say if he played more in one than the other. If I had to guess, I’d say he may have played a little bit more at SG, but I can’t definitively say that b-r.com’s assessment that his primary position was PG, for the season as a whole, is wrong.

I have Henderson and Leavell starting at PG. b-r.com agrees in Leavell’s case, but has Henderson as an SG. While Henderson may have spent time in both roles, I think he played primarily PG, for the following reasons: 1) Henderson finished second on the team in assists per game, behind only Leavell; 2) Henderson and Leavell occupied the same starting slot at different times in the season, and Leavell seems to have pretty clearly played PG, so it would make sense that Henderson did when he was starting, too; 3) Henderson started for long stretches of the season alongside Reid, an SF-SG swingman who seems like much more of a wing than a PG; 4) Henderson’s primary position had been PG for every season of his career up to this point. Against that backdrop, I am curious as to why b-r.com concluded that Henderson’s primary position this year was SG. Was there a specific reason why, or was it simply because Murphy had been classified as a PG, and under their methodology someone else had to be an SG? Then again, given Reid’s apparent skill as a playmaker, did Reid ever run the point when he was playing in the backcourt? Reid looks to have been kind of a “point forward”; he finished just behind Henderson in assists per game, and ahead of him in total assists, second on the team behind Leavell. In addition, Henderson started at various times alongside Murphy and Dunleavy, both of whom were definitely capable of playing PG. It’s certainly not impossible that Henderson played SG when paired up with them.

With all of these players shuffling in and out of the starting lineup, it’s not surprising that only two players averaged 30 minutes per game during the regular season, Malone (40.6) and Reid (36.1). Despite playing off the bench for most of the season, Murphy was third on the team at 26.5. Seven other players averaged between 20.5 and 24.3 mpg (Tomjanovich, Garrett, Dunleavy, Henderson, Leavell, Willoughby and Paultz).

For the playoffs, the Rockets kept the same starting lineup they finished the regular season with: Malone, Paultz, Reid, Henderson and Dunleavy. Malone and Reid averaged more than 40 mpg, Paultz 34.5, Henderson 29.3, and Dunleavy 23.6. Sixth-man Murphy averaged 28.4 mpg, more than Dunleavy and almost as much as Henderson.

RESERVES

With the starters in a constant state of flux, so were the reserves. Let’s again take this position by position:

C: Moses Malone, who was the regular starter all year, is the only player on the Rockets’ roster shown with a primary position of C. So who was the backup? I think it has to have been Billy Paultz. Paultz’s primary position is shown as PF this season, but it was C every other season of his career, and I see no other obvious candidates. Paultz probably also got some playing time at PF right from the start of the season, and was eventually installed as the starting PF in February, which likely pushed his minutes far enough into the PF column to make that his primary position. Even after Paultz took over as the starting PF, though, I think he continued to cover the backup C role; again, I see no other obvious candidates.

For the regular season as a whole, Paultz averaged 20.5 mpg, but the majority of those minutes were probably at PF, and that includes starting at PF for a quarter of the season. Malone averaged 40.8 mpg, so there were only about 8 mpg of playing time available for Paultz at center. In the playoffs, Paultz averaged 34.3 mpg, but that was while starting at PF. The overwhelming majority of those minutes must have been at PF, as Malone averaged 45.5 mpg.

PF: At the start of the season, Rudy Tomjanovich was the starter. It looks like it was “backup by committee”, with Billy Paultz getting some minutes here, plus Major Jones and Lee Johnson. Johnson soon fell out of the rotation and was waived. The player who took his roster spot, Bill Willoughby, is shown with a primary position of SF but probably saw playing time at both forward slots.

In January, Tomjanovich apparently went down with an injury, and would play only sporadically for the rest of the season. This left Paultz, Jones and Willoughby to cover the bulk of minutes at PF, supplemented off-and-on by Tomjanovich. Jones and Willoughby had stints as the starter before Paultz took over for good in February. For the regular season, Willoughby averaged 20.8 mpg (probably split between SF and PF), Jones 14.3.

In the playoffs, Paultz continued to start, averaging 34.3 mpg. Some of those minutes were probably at backup C, but the vast majority were likely at PF. Willoughby played by far the most minutes of any frontcourt reserve, averaging 21.9 mpg. As in the regular season, Willoughby was probably seeing time at both PF and SF. Jones saw a lot less playing time during the playoffs than he had during the regular season, appearing in only 12 of the Rockets’ 21 playoff games, averaging 7.3 mpg. The injury-ridden Tomjanovich appeared in just 8 playoff games, averaging 3.6 mpg.

SF: At the start of the season, Robert Reid was the starter, with Calvin Garrett in reserve. In early November, Reid was shifted to starting at SG, and Garrett took over as the starter. I think Reid continued to get some playing time at SF, however. In late November, Bill Willoughby was acquired, likely contributing some minutes at both SF and PF.

In February, Reid shifted back to starting at SF, with Garrett and Willoughby (again, probably swinging between SF and PF) holding down the reserve role. For the season as a whole, Garrett averaged 24.3 mpg, Willoughby 20.8, but both of those totals reflect periods as a starter. In the playoffs, Willoughby played by far the most minutes of any frontcourt reserve, averaging 21.9 mpg, again likely divided between SF and PF. Garrett saw a lot less playing time during the playoffs than he had during the regular season, appearing in only 13 of the Rockets’ 21 playoff games, averaging 9.0 mpg.

PG: As I am seeing the Rockets’ roster, the PG position primarily rotated among Tom Henderson, Allen Leavell and Calvin Murphy. Henderson (21.4 mpg) and Leavell (21.3 mpg) both started at PG for large portions of the season; whichever one of them wasn’t starting at a particular point in time was the backup. Sixth man Murphy likely split his time (26.5) between PG and SG, playing more minutes than any other guard even though he only started 11 games. Mike Dunleavy could also fill in at PG if needed.

In the playoffs, starter Henderson averaged 29.3 mpg. Leavell played noticeably less than he had during the regular season, appearing in 17 of the Rockets’ 21 playoff games, averaging 12.8 mpg. Some of Murphy’s 28.4 mpg were also likely at PG, although I think his playoff minutes were slanted more heavily towards SG.

SG: As I am seeing the Rockets’ roster, the SG position primarily rotated among Calvin Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and Robert Reid. Murphy started in the early part of the season but moved to a sixth man role in November. He continued to play heavy minutes – more than any other guard, for the season as a whole - likely split between SG and PG. Reid started at SF early in the season, at SG from November to early February, then at SF from early February onward. I think he swung between SF and SG throughout the season, however, seeing some minutes at SG even during the parts of the season he was starting at SF. Dunleavy served as the backup SG until taking over the starting role in February. For the regular season as a whole, he averaged 21.7 mpg.

In the playoffs, starter Dunleavy averaged 23.6 ppg. Murphy averaged 28.4 mpg, likely playing the majority of those at SG (but some at PG as well). Reid appears to have continued to play some SG as well.

POSITION NOTES

Center-Forwards

The Rockets had three players listed in their old b-r.com headers as playing both center and forward: Moses Malone, Billy Paultz and Bill Willoughby. Malone and Paultz are both listed as C-F. Both are shown with a primary position of C for almost every season of their career, but in Paultz’s case, 1980-81 happens to be the exception, for which he is shown as PF. Willoughby is listed as F-C and is shown with a primary position of SF for every season of his career. Note that Malone is the only player on the 1980-81 Rockets shown with a primary position of C.

My sense is that Paultz played extensively at both C and PF. There weren’t that many minutes available behind Malone, but someone had to be the backup center, and I see no other obvious candidates. It’s also apparent that Paultz played at PF, as he started for part of the season at that position. Heading into the year, the plan was likely for Paultz to swing between C and PF, holding down the backup C role and serving as one of two or three players covering the backup PF role. When Rudy Tomjanovich dropped out of the lineup in January due to an apparent injury, this may have caused Paultz to be used more heavily at PF, while still serving as the backup center. He was eventually installed as the starting PF in February - again, while still probably covering minutes at backup center. All of this probably pushed the balance of his minutes far enough to the forward side to make PF his primary position for the season as a whole.

While there is evidence that Malone played at least a little at PF – he started several games there – I can’t see him playing there extensively. All of his starts at PF were during the portion of the season when Paultz was starting at PF; which one we call the C and which one we call the PF may have been just a matter of semantics. If Malone had played exclusively at center, that would leave 716 regular season minutes for Paultz at center. Subtracting that from Paultz’ regular season minutes played total leaves him playing 943 minutes at forward. These numbers may not be an exact breakdown of how many minutes Paultz played at each position, due to Malone may not playing center completely exclusively, but they are probably a rough approximation. This backs up the idea that PF was Paultz’ primary position, but that he also played extensive minutes at C.

In the playoffs, with Paultz now starting at PF in place of Tomjanovich, and Malone staying on the court at almost all times, the balance tips ever heavier towards PF. If Malone had played exclusively at center, that would leave just 53 minutes for Paultz at center. Subtracting that from Paultz’ minutes played total leaves him playing 667 minutes at forward. Again, these numbers may not be exact, but it’s apparent that Paultz played far more at PF than at C during the playoffs.

With Malone and Paultz on the roster, I can’t see why Willoughby would have played much at center. I think he was likely more-or-less a full-time forward, maybe playing a little at center if Malone or Paultz was unavailable. Willoughby probably did play extensively at both forward positions, however; I don’t see how the minutes played by the Rockets’ forwards corps fit together otherwise.

Where did Reid play (more): SF or SG?

Reid looks to have been a swingman who played both SF and SG, starting games at both positions. If you divide all of the Rockets’ other players into two groups, one group whose main position was in the frontcourt and one group whose main position was in the backcourt, and add up their minutes, for the regular season 1761 frontcourt minutes are unaccounted for versus 1202 backcourt minutes. This is probably a rough approximation of how many minutes Reid played at each position. The same exercise applied to the playoffs yields 696 frontcourt minutes and 172 backcourt minutes.

An interesting question is whether the amount of time Reid played at each position varied depending on where he was starting. If the playoffs are any guide, the answer would seem to be yes. In the playoffs, when Reid was starting almost exclusively at forward, the calculation above suggests that he played about 80% of his minutes at forward. In the regular season, when his starts were split almost evenly between the two positions, the calculation suggests that he played about 59% of his minutes at forward. It’s hard to say how much the way a player was used under playoff conditions tells us about how he was used during the regular season, however. At the very least, I think we can say that when Reid was starting at forward, he likely wasn’t playing exclusively at forward, swinging during games to play significant minutes at guard. And when Reid was starting at guard, he almost certainly wasn’t playing exclusively at guard, probably doing no less than splitting his minutes between guard and forward.

As always, I would be interested in any information anyone has about how these players were used, this season or elsewhere in their careers.

TRIVIA

Oldest Player: Calvin Murphy, born 5/9/48 (age 32 throughout the regular season and most of the playoffs, turned 33 during the NBA Finals).

Played in ABA: Moses Malone, 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 the franchise continuously since its days in San Diego.

Highest original draft position*: #2 overall – Rudy Tomjanovich. The Rockets had very few 1st round picks on their roster. Aside from Tomjanovich, the only other players who had been 1st round picks in a regular NBA Draft were Tom Henderson and Lee Johnson. Moses Malone was also a 1st round pick, albeit in a special supplemental draft whose existence has largely been lost to the sands of time (see the next paragraph).

Lowest original draft position*: In terms of overall pick position, Allen Leavell (5th round, #104); in terms of round, Billy Paultz (7th round, #103 overall). Close behind in both categories is Mike Dunleavy (6th round, #99 overall). Moses Malone is often labeled as “undrafted”, but that isn’t really accurate. Malone was never selected in a regular NBA draft, but that was because he was never eligible for a regular NBA draft, which isn’t really what people mean when they say a player was “undrafted”. In addition, Malone was both eligible for and actually selected in a special December 1975 supplemental draft of ABA players who had not yet been eligible for the NBA Draft. That draft’s existence has been almost completely forgotten by modern reference sources.

Youngest Player: John Stroud, born 10/29/57 (age 22 on opening night, turned 23 a few weeks into the season). From youngest to oldest, Lee Johnson, Allen Leavell and Bill Willoughby were all born earlier in 1957.

*Which player was chosen with the highest/lowest selection, by round and/or overall pick, with no regard to whether any players may have been drafted under circumstances not reflecting their “true” value (e.g., player was a junior eligible who had not committed to turn pro right away, player was already under contract to ABA).
Last edited by MCT on Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 1980-81 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby wojoaderge » Sun Feb 21, 2016 11:09 pm

Major Jones would have been the 3rd string C
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Re: 1980-81 Houston Rockets Games Played/Started & Transacti

Postby MCT » Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:32 pm

A while back, Mike G. posted some material in the Spurs thread, with position information for 1980-81 sourced from Neft & Cohen’s NBA Encyclopedia. I recently posted about this in the introductory thread to this series, noting that I planned to post and comment on this data on a team-by-team basis. See the eighth post in the introductory thread for more information.

Here’s what Neft & Cohen have for the Rockets:

Mike Goodman wrote:
Code: Select all
tm     player         pos   Min     PO   Min
Hou   Moses Malone     C   3245      C   955
Hou   Robert Reid     Fg   2963     Fg   868
Hou   Calvin Murphy    G   2014      G   540
Hou   Allen Leavell    g   1686      g   217
Hou   Billy Paultz    fc   1659     Fc   720
Hou   Calvin Garrett   f   1638      f   117
Hou   Mike Dunleavy    G   1609      g   472
Hou   Tom Henderson    g   1411      G   615
Hou   Rudy Tomjanovich F   1264      f    31
Hou   Bill Willoughby  f   1145      f   417
Hou   Major Jones      f   1003      f    88       


MCT wrote:The Rockets had three players listed in their old b-r.com headers as playing both center and forward: Moses Malone, Billy Paultz and Bill Willoughby. Malone and Paultz are both listed as C-F. Both are shown with a primary position of C for almost every season of their career, but in Paultz’s case, 1980-81 happens to be the exception, for which he is shown as PF. Willoughby is listed as F-C and is shown with a primary position of SF for every season of his career. Note that Malone is the only player on the 1980-81 Rockets shown with a primary position of C.

My sense is that Paultz played extensively at both C and PF. There weren’t that many minutes available behind Malone, but someone had to be the backup center, and I see no other obvious candidates. It’s also apparent that Paultz played at PF, as he started for part of the season at that position. Heading into the year, the plan was likely for Paultz to swing between C and PF, holding down the backup C role and serving as one of two or three players covering the backup PF role. When Rudy Tomjanovich dropped out of the lineup in January due to an apparent injury, this may have caused Paultz to be used more heavily at PF, while still serving as the backup center. He was eventually installed as the starting PF in February - again, while still probably covering minutes at backup center. All of this probably pushed the balance of his minutes far enough to the forward side to make PF his primary position for the season as a whole.

While there is evidence that Malone played at least a little at PF – he started several games there – I can’t see him playing there extensively. All of his starts at PF were during the portion of the season when Paultz was starting at PF; which one we call the C and which one we call the PF may have been just a matter of semantics. If Malone had played exclusively at center, that would leave 716 regular season minutes for Paultz at center. Subtracting that from Paultz’ regular season minutes played total leaves him playing 943 minutes at forward. These numbers may not be an exact breakdown of how many minutes Paultz played at each position, due to Malone may not playing center completely exclusively, but they are probably a rough approximation. This backs up the idea that PF was Paultz’ primary position, but that he also played extensive minutes at C.

In the playoffs, with Paultz now starting at PF in place of Tomjanovich, and Malone staying on the court at almost all times, the balance tips ever heavier towards PF. If Malone had played exclusively at center, that would leave just 53 minutes for Paultz at center. Subtracting that from Paultz’ minutes played total leaves him playing 667 minutes at forward. Again, these numbers may not be exact, but it’s apparent that Paultz played far more at PF than at C during the playoffs.

Consistent with this analysis, Neft & Cohen have Malone as exclusively a center, and Paultz as “fc”.

MCT wrote:With Malone and Paultz on the roster, I can’t see why Willoughby would have played much at center. I think he was likely more-or-less a full-time forward, maybe playing a little at center if Malone or Paultz was unavailable.

Neft & Cohen have Willoughby as exclusively a forward.

MCT wrote: Reid looks to have been a swingman who played both SF and SG, starting games at both positions. If you divide all of the Rockets’ other players into two groups, one group whose main position was in the frontcourt and one group whose main position was in the backcourt, and add up their minutes, for the regular season 1761 frontcourt minutes are unaccounted for versus 1202 backcourt minutes. This is probably a rough approximation of how many minutes Reid played at each position. The same exercise applied to the playoffs yields 696 frontcourt minutes and 172 backcourt minutes.

An interesting question is whether the amount of time Reid played at each position varied depending on where he was starting. If the playoffs are any guide, the answer would seem to be yes. In the playoffs, when Reid was starting almost exclusively at forward, the calculation above suggests that he played about 80% of his minutes at forward. In the regular season, when his starts were split almost evenly between the two positions, the calculation suggests that he played about 59% of his minutes at forward. It’s hard to say how much the way a player was used under playoff conditions tells us about how he was used during the regular season, however. At the very least, I think we can say that when Reid was starting at forward, he likely wasn’t playing exclusively at forward, swinging during games to play significant minutes at guard. And when Reid was starting at guard, he almost certainly wasn’t playing exclusively at guard, probably doing no less than splitting his minutes between guard and forward.

Consistent with this analysis, Neft & Cohen have Reid as “Fg”.
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