Rudy Tomjanovich, who had been sidelined since December from the effects of a Kermit Washington punch passed his come-back test last night.
The veteran Houston Rocket forward pumped in his first two shots of an exhibition game against the Washington Bullets and wound up scoring 16 points.
But more importantly, Tomjanovich was willing to mix it up underneath the boards, something even he wasn't sure during the long months of rehabilitation he would do consistently.
Early in the second period, he was accidentally slapped by a Bullet player. He shrugged off the blow and refused treatment from the Rocket trainer.
Tomjanovich's return was the high-light of an otherwise lethargic 125-104 Rocket victory before 5,590 in Richmond Coliseum.
It was the Bullets second straight exhibition loss. It also was their second outing in a row without either Bob Dandridge, who has yet to report to training camp, or Mitch Kupchak, who has been slowed by a pulled hamstring.
This game was scheduled mainly to honor Dandridge, who hails from Richmond. Without him around, the fans had to be content cheering Rocket center Moses Malone, who hails from nearby petersburg.
Malone responded with a couple of big dunks amid a shoving match with Wes Unseld, who complained consistently about the officiating.
Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff all were hit with technical fouls. In Friday night's game against Atlanta. Coach Dick Motta picked up two technicals from the same officiating crew.
Hayes was about the only Bullet who played well. He had 17 points in the first half and 30 for the game. He was supported by 12 points by Greg Ballard, who twisted an ankle.
First-round draft choice Roger Phegley, who got off to a shaky start against the Hawks, looked better last night. He pumped in four field goals and moved with more ease on the court.
The Rockets, however, proved more interesting to watch. With the free agent Rick Barry now at forward, they have firepower at almost every position, especially if Tomjanovich continues his comeback.
Coach Tom Nissalke also is experimenting with 6-foot-8 Robert Reid at guard - as a playmaker no less. Reid is trying to fill the shoes of John Lucas, who went to Golden State as compensation for Barry.
Reid did surprisingly well at his new position. If he comes through, then Houston's back-court problem could be reduced considerably. Barry finished with 14 points, Calvin Murphy had 23 and Malone 24.
Motta is trying to play as many of the young Bullets as he can, one reason the club has not fared well in the two weekend games.
One player benefiting from Motta's liberal substitution policy is ex-Maryland star Lawrence Boston, who had 11 points and five rebounds.