For the first time since veteran training camp started 25 days and eight exhibition games ago, every Washington Bullet participated in the same practice session yesterday. Coach Dick Motta almost couldn't believe what he saw.
"At least they all got back when there is still time to get them in shape," he said about formerly ailing players Phil Chenier and Bob Dandridge. "We're got a week (until Friday) to refine things and that should be enough time. But I'm not used to having all these guys out here."
The Bullets reduced the squad later by releasing guard Coniel Norman, the two-year veteran signed in the off-season. Although the Bullets were already at the temporary NBA roster limit of 12, they decided to let Norman go for two reasons: he wouldn't have played much this year and they may not have the flexibility to pick up a player released by another team this week.
"We wanted to leave a roster spot in case we needed somebody to help us," said general manager Bob Ferry. "We aren't actively pursuing anyone, but with injuries you never know what emergency will pop up."
The departure of Norman leaves the Bullets with five forwards, two centers and four guards. Additions since the end of last year include rookies Greg Ballard and Phil Walker, who had been battling Norman for a roster spot, and Dandridge, the former free agent from Milwaukee.
It was an old-timer, Chenier, who received most of the attention yesterday. He had dressed for one previous workout last week, but he hadn't pushed himself hard. This time, he took part in and appeared to be running at full speed.
As a result, Motta felt sure his star guard would be able to play at least a few minutes in the opener against Detroit, something not even Chenier was sure he could do prior to last week-end.
In the last exhibition games he played a handful of minutes in each. His ailing back survived both tests and now it's matter of regaining his timing and improving his conditioning.
"I'll probably start Larry (Wright) and spot Phil during the game," said Motta. "He'll play as much as he can. He's honest and he'll tell us when he's tired."
Chenier said his back is not 100 per cent, "but it's getting better gradually. I was able to run pretty well today. I don't know when it's going to be 100 per cent, but I think I can play some this weekend, as long as nothing else happens to it."
Chenier's rehabilitation will be helped by te schedule after meeting Detroit and New York (Saturday in Madison Square Garden), the Bullets don't play again until Oct. 28 at Indiana, Chenier will have the benefits of at least four practices next week.
Dandridge, troubled by a bad knee, said the injury "is a lot better than it was this time last week. I can play on it now, but it will be interesting to see how it feels Saturday night after playing on it Friday."
The other major Bullet casualty, guard Tom Henderson, limped slightly on his sprained ankle. "It's almost healed," he said. "I'm more concerned about regaining the conditioning I lost."
Henderson last played Oct. 6.