By Lorenzo Tanos
After years of excruciating fourth quarters (or second halves) where teams would stall and/or foul to preserve their leads, a very important change would take place in the 1954-55 season – the 24-second shot clock. Thanks to Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone, the NBA would implement this shot clock for the new season, and although only one team averaged over a hundred points a game, all the other teams benefited from the changes, as the boring stalling tactics of old were rendered obsolete and inefficient. In a case of poetic justice, the Nationals would snap the Minneapolis Lakers’ streak and win the 1955 NBA title, though it would be another team that would reign supreme over the NBA as the dominating squad of the immediate post-shot clock era...
|New York Knicks*||38||34||.528||5.0|
|Baltimore Bullets (1)|
|Fort Wayne Pistons*||43||29||.597||—|
(The Baltimore Bullets finished 3-11 before disbanding early in the 1954-55 season.)
NBA Champions – Syracuse Nationals (def. Fort Wayne Pistons 4-3 in NBA Finals).
MVP – None.
Rookie of the Year – Bob Pettit, Milwaukee Hawks (1st round, 2nd pick, 1954 Draft).
LEAGUE LEADERS – Neil Johnston (Philadelphia, 22.7ppg, 1,631 points), Johnston (Philadelphia, 15.1 rpg, 1,085 rebounds), Bob Cousy (Boston, 7.8apg, 557 assists), Vern Mikkelsen (Minneapolis, 319 fouls), Larry Foust (Fort Wayne, 48.7% FG), Bill Sharman (Boston, 89.7% FT).
SO LONG, BIG GEORGE – It wasn't the 24-second shot clock that led to George Mikan's retirement after all those dominating years with the Minneapolis Lakers; according to him, it was family and injuries that led to “Mr. Basketball" hanging up his Chuck Taylors ahead of the 1954-55 season. He would, however, return to the NBA in the middle of the 1955-56 season, albeit far from the unstoppable force he was back in the pre-clock days.
HOW FAR HAVE THE MIGHTY FALLEN – Once perennial championship contenders, the Rochester Royals started floundering in 1954-55, as the 44-28 team of the previous season fell to 29-43 in 1955. The Royals' top four players – Bobby Wanzer (33), Bob Davies (35), Arnie Risen (30) and Jack Coleman (30) were all old for those days, and the team's best young players were hardly future Hall of Fame material – would-be NBA head coach Jack McMahon and Art (no relation to Miami Heat coach Erik) Spoelstra. Though the Royals would soon benefit from the likes of Maurice Stokes, Jack Twyman and, at the dawn of the ‘60s, Oscar Robertson, this season would be the first in many mediocre years to come for the future Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City/Sacramento Kings.
THE FIRST HUNDRED-POINT TEAM – Scoring was up across the board when the 24-second shot clock was introduced, but the Boston Celtics were the only team to average over a hundred points per game in 1954-55, not to mention the first in league history. Bob Cousy (21.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 7.8 apg) once again led the way, and Bill Sharman (18.4 ppg) continued to improve to give the Celtics a dynamite backcourt tandem. Rookie forward Frank Ramsey (11.2 ppg) was on his way to becoming the NBA's first super sixth man. Unfortunately, the Celtics were also the first NBA team to give up over a hundred points a game, and a lot of the blame fell on Ed Macauley (18.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg), quite tall for those times at 6'8" but not that good on defense. It would be a couple more years before the Celtics would get themselves a game-changing defender in the middle, though we'll get to that in a few weeks or so...
A LOOK AT THE TITLE WINNERS/LEAGUE LEADERS –After years of playing second fiddle to the Minneapolis Lakers, the Syracuse Nationals took full advantage of George Mikan's retirement by tying the Fort Wayne Pistons for the league's best record (43-29) and beating them for the NBA Championship in 1955. Once again, DolphSchayes (18.5 ppg, 12.3 rpg) was the main man for the Nationals, though he got ample support from point guard Paul Seymour (14.6 ppg, 6.7 apg) and big men Red Rocha and Johnny Kerr. All in all, the Nats were a well-balanced team, a very good one who may not have been that lucky had Mikan decided not to retire and stay with the Lakers.
THE CELLAR DWELLERS – Winning players from winning teams. A future NBA Championship-winning coach. The first and second overall picks in the 1954 Draft. Somehow that wasn't enough for the Milwaukee Hawks to escape the NBA's cellar in 1954-55. The 1955 Hawks were led by two young players making their debut that season – 6'9" forward/center Bob Pettit out of LSU and Frank Selvy, he of the 100-point game for Furman that became his main claim to fame. Selvy and Pettit were the first and second overall picks in the 1954 Draft, and when the Baltimore Bullets folded, Selvy would join the Milwaukee Hawks and form a high-scoring nucleus with Pettit. Also part of that team were former Lakers guards Bob Harrison and Pep Saul and former Celtics forward Chuck Cooper, while 6'11" Charlie Share remained quite productive. Despite all that, the Hawks, with Red Holzman as coach, finished 26-46 in their last season in Milwaukee, before moving to St. Louis.
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