Greg Ballard insists he is not the sort of fellow who sulks over lack of playing time. When he did not play Friday night in Seattle, there was no locker room temper tantrum, no play-me-or-trade-me tirade. "I wasn't happy about it," he said, "but what could I do?"
When Ballard arrived at Capital Centre yesterday, his spirits began soaring when Bullet Coach Dick Motta told him to be prepared for action, that Kevin Grevey's wrist injury might necessitate a move of Bobby Dandridge to guard, and more play for Ballard.
"If you know the coach is going to play you, you look forward to it. You can keep your spirits up on the bench and really get your head into the game," Ballard said, "I was down Friday because I couldn't do anything to help the team win. I mean I can't do anything if I'm not playing. Today, I just wanted to help any way I could."
And he did.
Ballard, the rookie forward from Oregon who had played only 21 minutes in the previous five games of the series, entered the game late in the first quarter and played a decisive role - perhaps the decisive role, according to teammates and Sonics alike - in the Bullets' 117-82 victory over Seattle.
In 27 minutes, Ballard scored 12 points, pulled down 12 rebounds, handed out six assists and had three steals. And when Dandridge moved out to the guard position with 4:20 left in the second period, Ballard started dominating the boards to help the Bullets stretch a three-point lead to 12 at intermission. Seattle never recovered.
"You don't notice a lot of things Greg does because he's not a spectacular kind of player," said Mitch Kupchak, no slouch as a reserve himself yesterday with 19 points. "But he gets you the rebound, he makes the big shot. He won't hit the 30-footers or slam dunk on you. But he does get the job done.
"The first five and Ballard did it to them yesterday. When the rest of the subs came in, the real damage had been done. We were able to keep it going, and it's nice to see that we could."
"A lot of what Greg does doesn't show up in the statistics," added Elvin Hayes. "He creates problems. He eats away at them. I saw (Paul) Silas trying to throw an elbow into him. That just shows he was doing the job, that he was getting to him."
And Sonic guard Fred Brown paid Ballard the ultimate compliment. said. "If he had not been able to play that position that well, we would have "That rookie did the damage," Brown been able to put pressure on them. If the rookie had not responded they'd have been in a hole. He was hungry."
Ballard has done this sort of thing before for the Bullets in the playoffs. He had 13 points and 11 rebounds to help the Bullets win the second and deciding game of the opening series against Atlanta.
He had 12 points and 15 rebounds against Philadelphia in the third game of that series, also a Bullet victory. And he came up with a critical offensive rebound and two clutch free throws to preserve the Bullets triumph over Seattle in the Kingdome last Tuesday.
Still, there has been all manner of talk during this series about the difference it bench strength between the two teams! Going into yesterday's affair, Seattle's reserves had outscored the Bullet substitutes, 151-103, including a 38-8 margin in the fifth game Friday night.
Yesterday, however , the Bullet bench silence the detractors. In addition to Ballard and Kupchak, guard Charles Johnson came up with 17 points, nine rebounds, three steals and three assists, many of them in the third period when the Bullets blew away Seattle.
"We all knew how important the game was," Ballard said "We all came into the locker room more determined. The guys on the bench never got down on themselves. I know I was intense, I was ready to go from the beginnings.
"I wanted to be very intense on defense and crash the boards very hard. I was also determined to shoot the ball. Tom Henderson told me if you have the shot, take it. That's all I wanted to do."
A major concern for the Bullets is Kevin Grevey's sore lift wrist. He played only six minutes before taking himself out.
"I couldn't dribble with my left hand and I couldn't shoot," said Grevey, already troubled with knee , ankle and hip problems.
"I was hurting the team so I came out. I'll be glad when this season is over. I've had my share of injuries for a season in this one series alone. It takes the fun out of it. It's frustrating. I'm just happy these other guys could take up the slack."