Bullet guard Phil Chenier, who was in the midst of his best shooting stretch of the season, will miss at least two games with a pulled hamstring muscle in his right leg.
Kevin Grevey, who started 17 games before being replaced by Chenier in the starting lineup two weeks ago, will be Tom Henderson's backcourt mate tonight against the Kansas City Kings in an 8:05 o'clock game at Capital Centre.
A Bullet spokesman said Chenier, who was examined by a physical therapist yesterday, also would miss Wednesday's game against Atlanta in Charlotte. After that, his availability will be on a day-to-day basis, although it seems unlikely he will be ready for games Friday against Portland in Capital Centre and Saturday at Buffalo.
Chenier hurt his leg Sunday in the Bullets' 99-98 victory over the Nets in New Jersey. He said yesterday that the leg was very sore.
"We'll use Larry Wright as Kevin's backup," said caoch Dick Motta, "and I won't hesitate to use (rookie) Phil Walker either. I have confidence in him."
Chenier said the hamstring first started hurting him in the second quarter of the Nets' game and then he pulled it more severly in the third quarter when he stretched for a loose ball amid a tangle of players. He left the court with trainer John Lally and did not come back.
"It really knotted up the second time and I knew that was it," said Chenier. "You can't push this type of injury. You have to let it heal.
"Yeah, I know I was shooting the ball well, but I'll be back. This isn't going to keep me out for the season."
Chenier had hit six straight shots in the first quarter of the Nets' contest and was seven for 10 in the first half before missing his only two attempts of the third period. He finished with 17 points and seven of 12 in marksmanship.
Against Indiana Friday night, he connected on 10 straight shots during one stretch and missed just four of 16 for the night. He scored 24 points in 25 minutes while also adding three assists. In the last three games, he has scored 64 points by shooting 60 per cent from the floor.
"He was moving very well without the ball and really shooting well," said Motta about his $400,000 guard. "He was easily playing the best he has all season."
Unlike other years, when an injury to Chenier would handicap the team at guard, Motta now has a competent replacement in Grevey, who was one of the principal players in the Bullets' December burst that put them on top in the NBA Central Division.
"This is what we've been talking about right along," said Motta. "We've got good backup people who can cover up for injuries, at least over the short run. That's all you really need."
In splitting two previous games against the Kings in Kansas City and Omaha, Neb., Chenier scored a total of 29 points. Grevey had six in the first contest, when Larry Wright was starting, and then 22 in the second, his second-highest total of the season.
Kansas City beat Washington, 120-106, and then the Bullets won in overtime, 131-125, by making 47 of 57 foul shots. The Kings' will be playing under new head coach Larry Staverman, who took over for the fired Phil Johnson Saturday night. Staverman had been the team's assistant general manager.
Motta has taken the Johnson release particularly hard. The two have known each other since Motta taught Johnson in the seventh grade at a UTAH junior high school in 1954.
Johnson later played two years in high school and one year in junior college for Motta before becoming his assistant coach, first a Weber State and then with the Chicago Bulls.
"He's almost like a son," said Motta. "He's even from the same town as my wife. His parents and my wife's parents are close friends.
"He's upset about what happened but it wasn't surprise. He had been warned it might happen. But it's like when one of your parents is terminally ill and you know he's going to die but even when it comes, it still hurts.
"He was coach of the year three years ago and now this. But I'm sure he can get a job. I know he's turned down college offers in the past. He's too good a coach to not get a job somewhere."
Johnson, who has 1 1/2 years left on his contract was unable to produce a consistent winners this season from what is basically a young team.
In the offseason, the Kings dealt for center Tom Burleson and guard Lucius Allen and signed rookie guard Otis Birdsong, the No. 2 pick in the draft. But these squad changes, which the Kings felt would make them contenders, have not done so The club had compiled a 13-24 record when Johnson was fired.