First-round draft choice Roger Phegley finally agreed to terms with the Bullets yesterday to bolster Coach Dick Motta's hopes "for a tranquil training camp."
Motta said the only things that can prevent Washington from being a contender for a second straight NBA title are "injuries and internal problems, like contract negotiations and holdouts. If we can have internal harmony, we should do very well."
Phegley, the 14th player chosen in the June draft, had been holding out for a no-cut contract. His attorney, Joe Napoli, refused to comment on that subject yesterday, although it seems probable Phegley has a no-cut clause covering at least one year.
At 6-foot-6, he becomes the biggest guard on the team's roster. He will be competing with second-year man Phil Walker for a place on the final 11-man squad.
Phegley will join the club in time for the first veterans' workout this afternoon. That opening practice, Motta said, "will be the first step toward preparing ourselves to show we aren't flukes, something a lot of people are saying about us.
"We are highly capable of repeating as NBA champs. No one has done that in nine years and that's what I'm going to tell them over and over. We've got a chance to break that trend, but it will mean a little more sacrifice and a little more work on everyone's part.
"People might think it's a one-shot thing because of our age, but that's wrong. We are really young. Take away Elvin (Hayes) and Wes (Unseld) and it's a young team. We've been working the younger guys in and there is a lot of room for us to improve."
Motta, who supervised the opening day of rookie camp yesterday at Fort Meade, said he bases his optmism for this season on the strength of the team's bench.
"We've got nine guys who can play, that we know," he said. "When you can go four deep on your bench, you are talking about an ideal situation. When I was at Chicago, we never had more than six players.
We'll follow many of the same patterns as last year as far as substituting goes. It worked. If it hadn't, I'm sure there would have been lots of crying about it.
"Everyone wants their minutes. It's an ego thing. If a guy realizes his real worth and value to the organization, then he knows he is receiving money for the job he is asked to do. The first sign of maturity in a player is accepting a role. We went a long way in that area last year, so I don't think I have to do a selling job about it."
Motta concedes he will have trouble giving everyone enough minutes. But he reiterated his goal of playing forward Greg Ballard more often.
"I've thought a lot about that over the summer and I feel Greg needs the time," Motta said. "I'm aiming to have Elvin play about 40 minutes, Bobby Dandridge from 35-40 and Wes from 30-35.
"Of course, those minutes will vary. Mitch (Kupchak) needs time, so he will wind up playing all three spots up front, just like he did last year.
"What it boils down to us we have nine men who can play and who have plenty of experience. We learned a lot about our roles during the playoffs and we are going to be tought to handle, as long as injuried don't kill us again."
This obviously will be a different kind of training camp for the Bullets and for their coach. Unlike previous years, when there was speculation about their chances of even contending for the championship, Motta now has to worry about motivation and keeping his deep team happy.
"I know I sure enjoyed this summer and the fruits of winning," he said. "It leaves a good taste in your mouth.
"But it changes things, too. Everywhere we go, we are now called the 'world champions.' Even the league mentions us up high in their press releases. There's a lot of prestige involved and we know people are going to be shooting for us.
"I'm well aware that the conventional thinking around the league is that Portland forfeited to us for a year and that someone else now will claim the title. I'd like to prove that theory wrong.
"Our trip to Israel helped. I saw a togetherness that I liked. There was poise I wanted to see. I like them to be confident; not cocky, but confident. They know what they are capable of doing now. We just have to prove it again."
Only six rookies, including first round pick Dave Corzine, participated in yesterday's workout. Motta was pleased with Corzine's toughness. "I can't wait for the first time he and Mitch play each other," he said . . . The rookies will hold another practice this morning before joining the veterans in the afternoon . . . Bernie Bickerstaff, the assistant coach who attended a rules meeting in New York Wednesday, said the league is serious "about enforcing tougher calls on hand-checking." There also is a new rule that forbids teams from deliberately fouling a player away from the ball in the last two minutes. A violation results in a technical foul. "They call it the Unseld rule, because they are always fouling Wes like that at the end of games," Bickerstaff said, alluding to the Bullet center's reputation as a poor foul shooter.