Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Greg Ballard, exercising on the floor of the Washington locker room in Capital Centre 30 minutes before last night's game against the Kansas City Kings, happened to look up at a nearby blackboard.
"The starting lineup was on the board and I saw my name in it," the Bullet rookie said. "I was shocked."
Ballard recovered quickly enough to make his first pro start-memorable. He pulled, down a season-high 13 rebounds while scoring 10 points and turning in a decent defensive job on Scott Wedman as the Bullets defeated the kings, 123-115.
Washington won despite the absence of tow starters. Guard Phil Chenier, as expected, sat out with a pulled hamstring and he was joined by Bob Dandridge. The veteran forward couldn't play after fluid unexpectedly developed in a big toe he sprained Sunday playing against the New Jersey Nets.
Coach Dick Motta said it was doubtful either injured player would make the trip tonight to Charlotte, N. C. where the Bullets play the Atlantic Hawks at 8 o'clock. But Dandridge is probable and Chenier possible for Friday's home game against Portland.
Ballard hadn't realized Dandridge was hurt until after he saw the blackboard. "Then I saw Bobin street clothes. I would have figured he was going to start Mitch (Kupchak) but maybe he figured because I had a decent game against Kansas City last time, he'd go with me."
That is exactly what Motta figured. Besides, Motta hates to start a game wihtout Kupchak, his super sub. on the bench.
Last night, at least, Motta made the right move. With Ballard rebounding better than Dandridge normally does (his 13 rebounds led both teams) and with four Bullets led by Elvin Hayes (27 points) scoring at least 20 points, Washington was able to offset the loss of the 32 points normally contributed by Dandridge and Chenier.
It also helped that Kansas City got itself in deep foul trouble. The kings committed 33 personals to the Bullets' 17 and were outshot at the foul line, 42 to 13.
"I guess I'll just have to start yelling from the first quarter (at the refs)," said King coach Larry Staverman, who replaced the fired Phil johnson on Saturday. The Kings have lost nine straight games and their last 12 on the road.
Kansas City played this one wihtout star rookle guard Otis Birdsong (ankle) and the Bullets tried to run away with the game early, opening up a 16-point lead in the first quarter. But the kings wiped out all but one point of that advantage during the second period and were as close as two points with nine minutes left in the game.
Washington then ran off eight straight points, six of them after Ballard re-entered the game.
Larry Wright got the burst going with a 16-foot jumper. Ballard pulled down a missed shot and started a fast break which ended with a Kupchak layup.
Ballard grabbed another rebound and passed th e length of the court to Tom Henderson for another layup. Kupchak then made two foul shots for a 102-92 lead and the Kings could never get closer than five again.
Wright wound up scoring 14 of his 21 points in the fourth period, including a concluding breakway shot, the 6-foot-1 guard's first pro dunk.
Ballard supplied the crowd's first thrill with an opening-quarter block of a Wedman shot. He said afterward that play got the adrenalin flowing,
"The crowd liked it," he said, "and it made me feel good! I played badly the last game (against Indians) here and I wanted to do better.
"Once I knew I was starting, I found I concentrated better. It was easier than coming off the bench. Kevin Grevey said to go three-quarter speed and relax. It worked."
When it was over, Ballard couldn't stop smiling. "Yeah, this is a thrill," he said. "You never forget your first pro start, especially when it works out O.K. This will stay with me forever."