The American Basketball League shifted to divisional play in its third season. In the East, the Celtics playing out of Madison Square Garden in New York, streaked to fifteen straight midseason wins and easily won the division with a 40-9 record. The remaining Eastern teams all had representative squads, but could not defeat the Celtics on any regular basis. Philadelphia kept its solid tandem of Tom Barlow and George Artus, but restructured the rest of the squad by trading starters Chick Passon, Stretch Meehan and Harry Riconda to Washington for guards Teddy Kearns and George Glasco. The newcomers helped the Warriors capture second place and a playoff spot. The trade turned into a disaster for George Preston Marshall’s Washington team when Meehan and Riconda refused to sign with his Palace-Five team and Passon proved to be ineffective. Marshal disenchantment with his basketball venture grew when his team lost its first eight games and attendance thinned. The first week in January, he folded his franchise and sold his players to the Brooklyn Visitation who joined the ABL the same week after jumping from the Metropolitan League. The combined Brooklyn-Washington roster, loaded with talented players such as Joe Brennan, Willie Scrill, Rody Cooney, and Ray Kennedy, finished out the season with a 19-12 record, but saddled with Washington’s poor early-season mark had to settle for third place. Johnny Murphy’s Rochester club finished in the cellar with a hustling but out manned club.
The Western Division was a two-team race from the beginning of the season between Cleveland and Fort Wayne. Cleveland owner Max Rosenblum bolstered his squad in the off season with the signing three-time Syracuse University All-American Vic Hanson to fill the void left by last season’s departure of Honey Russell. Despite scoring well, Hanson took an immediate dislike to the rougher professional game and eventually quit the team in mid-January. Compounding Hanson’s loss was a debilitating series of injuries to key performers such as Nat Hickey, Carl Husta, and Dave Kerr. Mortally weakened, the Rosenblums lost 22 of their final 29 games.
With Cleveland struggling to stay alive, Fort Wayne moved to the top of the weak Western Division by default. Despite Indiana’s well-deserved reputation for basketball talent, the Hoosiers boasted only two native sons in their lineup, center Shang Chadwick and guard Ralph Miller. The remainder of the squad, coached by veteran Pop Morgenweck, had a distinctively New Jersey texture to it. Altogether, five Jerseymen dotted the roster including diminutive scoring star Benny Borgmann and husky Rusty Saunders who had been picked up from the disbanded Washington team in January.
In the off-season, the Baltimore franchise had been transferred to Detroit along with its only asset, aging star Johnny Beckman as player-coach. The new Detroit team could manage only five wins in eighteen game and folded the first week in January. Beckman moved on to Chicago to try to bolster the Bruins sagging fortunes. Player-coach Honey Russell, the best all-around player in the league, led Chicago. Even with Beckman and Russell in place, the Bruins had trouble winning because of nagging problems at center. Swede Grimstead was too old, while Slim Shoun, a six-foot, eleven inch rookie, was largely ineffective. Russell’s final option, Tillie Voss, was only marginally adequate.
The first and second place finishers in each division entered the playoffs. As expected, New York easily brushed aside Philadelphia and Fort Wayne defeated the fading Cleveland club. Any chance that underdog Fort Wayne club had of upsetting the highly favored Celtics in the best-of-five game playoff final was quickly dashed, when Benny Borgmann was injured early in the initial game of the series. Without their star, the Hoosiers were defeated in four games.