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  •   Howard, Webber Debut in Bullets' Loss

    By Richard Justice
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, November 20, 1994; Page D01

    The Washington Bullets were unable to add the perfect finishing touch to an already historic week. It was a night that began with huge ovations for Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, a night when both made their debut for the Bullets and a night when there was a playoff atmosphere at soldout USAir Arena.

    In a season when so much else has gone right, the Bullets couldn't finish the deal as Dee Brown hit a pair of free throws with 1.6 seconds left to give the Boston Celtics a 103-102 victory in front of 18,756.

    Calbert Cheaney's jumper with 3.1 seconds left had given the Bullets a 102-101 lead. They celebrated briefly, then realized the Celtics were flying back down the floor. Specifically, Brown was flying. Chapman stepped in front of him and was called for a blocking foul with 1.6 seconds left.

    "It was a bonehead play on my part," Chapman said. "I ran up to force him to walk or do something he didn't want to do. I got too far and tried to draw the charge. I wasn't going to get that call. It was just a bad play on my part."

    Brown's free throws handed the Bullets (4-4) their second straight loss, but something of a predictable one considering the mix of new players in the lineup. The Bullets showed only flashes of what they will be, running dazzling fast breaks and showing more quickness than they have in years.

    There was also the expected sloppiness, which was a small price to pay for throwing Webber and Howard into the mix. Howard had prepared with two brief practices, and Webber had only a pregame skull session. But when Coach Jim Lynam walked out and heard the packed house cheering for the new players, he couldn't resist.

    "When the crowd went crazy like that before the game, I got goose bumps," Lynam said. "When I coached at AU {American University}, I used to come over here when the Bullets had Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. It was like that again. It's justifiable excitement. This team has a chance to get nothing but better."

    Webber played 23 minutes, and having not played in a game since the end of last season, was nevertheless brilliant at times. He was brilliant enough that Lynam had him on the floor at the end of the game.

    He was 4-for-13, but finished with nine points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. He showed explosive speed around the basket. He showed intimidation on defense. He showed everything the Bullets could hope for in the guy they believe will be the cornerstone of their franchise.

    "I knew how good Chris was, but when you get out there, you realize he's even better than you thought," Chapman said.

    Howard played 22 minutes and was solid, contributing 10 points and 11 rebounds. He made only 4-of-10 shots, but was terrific on the backboards with six offensive rebounds.

    The game became a footnote to the arrival of Webber and Howard. Howard entered the game with 4:21 left in the first quarter, and two minutes later, Lynam sent in Webber, and for a few minutes, the Bullets had a high-octane offense unlike anything they've had in recent years.

    "It was easier with Chris out there," Howard said. "I had flashbacks to Michigan. We know each other's game and what to expect."

    There was also mistakes, a jumbled offense and turnovers. Lynam will begin trying to put the pieces together with five days off before the Cleveland Cavaliers come to Baltimore Arena Friday.

    There were also some memories, especially at the end of the quarter when Webber grabbed a rebound and tossed an outlet pass to Doug Overton to begin the fast break that got the Bullets within three points. Howard's first shot? It was blocked by Dino Radja. Howard missed his first five before tossing in a hook on a nice feed from Webber.

    Webber scored his first basket on a reverse layin with 9:40 left in the second quarter.

    Webber was playing on adrenaline and not much else. His red-eye flight from the Bay Area was 90 minutes late, and he spent the day getting a physical and trying to rest in his hotel room.

    When Webber showed up at USAir Arena, Lynam asked how he felt about playing against the Celtics. The coach would have understood if Webber didn't because he didn't know the plays, hadn't had an easy day of travel. Webber said he wanted to play.

    "A lot of people bought tickets and I didn't want them to be disappointed," he said. "I'm in basketball shape, so why not? I wanted to do it for the fans. I just knew he wanted me to rebound and block shots."

    "He's caught up in the moment like the rest of the city," Bullets General Manager John Nash said.

    Just a couple of hours earlier, Webber and his former Michigan teammate, Howard, had met face-to-face for the first time since becoming NBA teammates on Thursday.

    "It was indescribable," Webber said. "We shook our heads. We're going to have fun. I never thought I'd play with those guys again. If I did, I thought it'd be at the end of my career. To start off like this ... you can't express it.

    "I know he'll make me better. I know I'll make him better because of the way I get on him."

    Webber seemed like a guy ready to celebrate, seemed absolutely as happy about joining the Bullets as the Bullets are at having him.

    "This is a great opportunity," he said. "I cannot say that enough. This is a chance to have fun and play basketball. It feels great to be here. It feels good to be a Bullet. I'd like to thank everybody for making me feel at home. I want to be part of this organization. It's an opportunity for a second chance, and you don't get that too often."

    Six hours earlier, it had been Lynam and Howard on the practice floor at Bowie State University. Lynam talked to his top draft choice as Howard shot free throws, walked through plays and went around the three-point arc taking jumpers.

    "Not having played, they were in remarkable shape," Lynam said. "I think it's evident to anyone in the building that we've improved dramatically. We're going to be a better rebounding team. We going to be a better shot-blocking team. Our intimidation around the basket has taken a quantum leap. We've added two high, high-level players."

    Bullets Notes: Center Gheorghe Muresan missed a second straight game after undergoing tests on his left knee. Doctors found no serious damage, but he'll undergo an MRI and bone scan Monday to confirm the early diagnosis. The Bullets have some hope he'll be able to play next weekend.

    © Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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