A rash of sudden injuries has left the Washington Bullets with the possibility of starting flu-weakened Larry Wright and inexperienced rookie Phil Walker at guard against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night.
Walker is the only completely healthy Bullet guard. The problem in the backcourt has become so desperate that coach Dick Motta said he probably will use forward Bobby Dandridge as a backup guard aginst the Lakers.
The team's guard situation turned into a nightmare during a 12-hour span starting with Wednesday night's loss at Golden State.
Playmaker Tom Henderson sprained an ankle in the first quarter, missed the rest of the game and is not expected to play against the Lakers.
Kevin Grevey, who was replacing a hobbled Phil Chenier (hamstring), pulled a muscle in his neck in the fourth quarter and could not move his head today.
Unless he improves overnight, he also will not play Friday.
Then, Chenier, who had been expected to fly out to Los Angeles today to join the team for the rest of this road trip, woke up with a sore back this morning at his Maryland home. He was examined by Dr. Standford Lavine and told to stay home.
Chenier said today he would not be able to paly aginst the Lakers and doubted whether he would be ready for Sunday's game at Phoenix.
He was not sure how he aggravated his chronic back injury, which prevented him from playing during the preseason. He did not regain his starting spot until just before Christmas, then pulled a hamstring Jan. 8 against the New Jersey Nets and has missed the last five games.
Wright has been fighting a case of the flu almost a week. He said he probably shouldn't have played Wednesday night, but did after Henderson was hurt. However, he was in for only 26 minutes, and was on the banch bench the last seven minutes of the game when Walker was the playmaker.
"I don't feel good, but I'm just go- ing to have to got stronger," Wright said. "I don't have much choice."
Alson joining this injury parade was Mitch Kupchak, whose right thumb (shooting hand) was bent backward in the fourth period. He tore some ligaments at the base of the thumb and, although he will not miss any playing time, it was sore and swollen today and will have to be taped for games.
"If Grevey can't play, then I'll start Wright and Wqlker," Motta said. "And Bobby Dandridge will be the third guard.
"But I fully expect Kevin to play. I think a night's rest and treatments will help him enough to use him. We certainly need him against the Laker guards."
Motta also said the Bullets will have to consider picking up a guard if Chenier's newest back problems will sideline him for a lengthy period. Among the free-agent guards vavailable are ex-Warrior Charles Johnson and ex-Hawk Ken Charles.
Grevey was in no condition to do much of anything today except hold an ice pack on his aching neck. If he doesn't play against the Lakers, Washington will have matchup problems against Charlie Scott and Lou Hudson.
Grevey was hurt while going for a rebound against the Warrior's Clifford Ray. They both grabbed the ball, but Ray yanked it away from him and pulled Grevey to the floor in the process.
"The neck pulled when that happened," Grevey said. "It stiffened up and I hardly could move it."
Hederson was limping noticeable today on his bad ankle. He said it "was really sore," and he didn't think "there is any way I can play Friday. Maybe Sunday, but not Friday.
The injuries come at a time when the Bullets are struggling to keep from falling out to first place in the NBA Central Division. Their lead over San Antonio has been reduced to mere percentage points, and the Spurs have a more favorable schedule during the next month.
"This is why you use your bench a lot," Motta said, "but it does come at a bad time. We just have to hope they respond. It's tough to win in this league without your two starting guards; anybody would have problems.
"I'm not hesitant in using Phil (Walker). I trust him and think he can do the job. Good things might come of this. You have to think that way or otherwise you won't keep your sanity."
Walker, who has played in only 14 games this year, was in for 21 minutes aganist Golden State, his longest appearance. He has been used in three of the last four games, and has responded with decent efforts considering his inexperience.
The second-round draft choice from Millersville State had eight points in 12 minutes against Atlanta, eight points in 16 minutes against Buffalo and six points and three assists against Golden State.
"You never know what to expect as a rookie," he said. "I've tried to keep in shape by running a lot and then just hope I play. I can't do anything but try my best and hope that is enough."
The Lakers are likely to try the same strategy used by the Warriors: attack the Bullet guards and press them to wear them down.
By the fourth quarter Wednesday night, Grevey was exhausted and Motta was forced to use rookie forward Greg Ballard as a defensive guard against Phil Smith. Smith finished with 28 points and Charles Dudley added seven important fourth-quarter points.
"I will use Dandridge instead of Ballard at guard against the Lakers," Motta said. "Dandridge has played guard in practice and I think he'll do a good job."
The Bullets have lost seven of their last nine road games and have seen their record fall to 24-17 at the half-way point of the season.
"With the injuries we have now," Motta, said "it's difficult to predict when we can get things straightened out. This certainly will prove how valuable Tom Henderson is to us."
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