Nick Weatherspoon will be the chief concern of the Washington Bullets, when they face their former teammate and the Seattle SuperSonics Friday night at the Coliseum.
Since coming to the Sonics in exchange for Leonard Gray six weeks ago, Weatherspoon has become Seattle's second-leading scorer, wih a 12.2 average, and its leading rebounder, pulling down 8.2 a game. He is also shooting 50 per cent from the field.
"He'll really be ready for us, too," Bullet coach Dick Motta said. "He's really tough offensively and on the boards"
Motta indicated that he is contemplating starting the physical Gray in place of Kevin Grevey and putting him on the not-so-physical Weatherspoon.
This will be the first time that Gray, a popular Sonic, has played in Seattle since he was traded away.
If Motta does decide to start Gray, it wouldn't necessary be a demotion for Grevey. Ever since he traded Leonard Robinson to Atlanta for Tom Henderson six games ago, Motta has said that Grevey and Gray will compete for the starting job and there will be nights when one will start-over the other strictly for strategical reasons.
Grevey has started all six games since Robinson was traded, but he and Gray have played almost an equal number of minutes.
Neither player has done particularly well the last two games. In the 119-105 loss to Denver Wednesday night, Grevey played 21 minutes and had four points.
In the previous game, Grevey scored eight points in 30 minutes and Gray fouled out after going 14 scoreless minutes.
As a result, Motta has gone increasingly with a front line of Wes Unsel, Elvin Hayes and Mitch Kupchak.
Kupchak grabbed seven rebounds and made seven of 11 field goals against the Nuggets.
Friday's game will be the second of a crucial seven-game road trip for the Bullets. They went into Denver with an eight-game winning streak and victories in 14 of their previous 16 games. They also had a one-game lead in the Central Division and were beginning to look invincible.
The Nuggets quickly brought them back to reality.
Denver coach Larry Brown, a little upset that his Nuggets had lost two of the last three at home, despite having the best record in the NBA, tinkered with his starting lineup and it worked.
Starting forward Willie Wise has a hyper-extended toe, so Brown moved David Thompson and his 24-point average from guard to Wise's forward spot and started Jim Price, perhaps his all-round guard, in Thompson's spot. It was Thompson's first start at forward this year and Price's first start, period.
Thompson scored 37 points and had six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Nuggets didn't suffer in the backcourt, either as Price made seven of 12 shots, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 11 assists.
"I think David is a forward, after all," Brown said. There was too much pressure on him at guard. It is so much easier for him at forward. I say let him be comfortable.
Thompson as a forward "came as a surprise to us," Motta said. Fearing Thompson would play a low post, the Bullets started Hayes on him, but later put a small forward on him.
Thompson scored 23 of his points in the second half, 15 of them in the fourth quarter.
Washington dropped behind by nine in the first quarter and was sown by 15 at the half as the Nuggets and their overplaying defense forced the Bullets out of their offense.
Washington eventually fell behind by 22 points in the third quarter, but got back to within 10 on a 14-2 spurt late in the third quarter.
Henderson had seven of the points in that stretch on some daring drives down the lane.