Washington Coach Dick Motta is not kidding when he says he doesn't know who will start, or even play, today when the Bullets take on Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia at the Spectrum at 1:45 WDMV-TV-9.
The audience for the nationally televised game won't be able to see ailing Bullets Wes Unseld (ankle), Kevin Grevey (pulled hamstring) or Mitch Kupchak (heel) run through pregame warmup drills. But Motta will -- and that's when he will decide on the lineup.
At the same time, the 76ers, five games behind the Bullets in the Atlantic Division, will be shuffling their lineup. All-star guard Doug Collins probably will be out for the year with a bone spur on his foot and Julius (Dr. J) Erving will sit out with a sprained ankle, the first game he's missed this season.
Motta said if his three injured players are unable to go at least three-quarter speed against the 76ers there was a "slight possibility" guard Phil Chenier might be activated.
"He's (Chenier) running through plays and looks good right now but we don't really want to take a chance and lose him for the year," Motta said. "If a couple of these guys can't go on the West Coast trip, we might send for Phil. Then, I'd move (Roger) Phegley to forward because it's big men I'll need. We have enough guards.
"It's wait and see on the three right now," said Motta, watching his troops limp through an abbreviated workout yesterday at Bowie State.
"They'll try it during warmups and let me know. They've been taking it easy and I think Wes and Kevin will be able to play against Philadelphia. If not I'll use Dave (Corzine), Elvin (Hayes) and Bobby (Dandridge) up front."
Kupchak appears to be the most doubtful case. The three-year veteran, who has not run on his sore heel for 10 days, said, "We'll ice it down and see what happens.
"If it feels okay when I get up in the morning I'm going to try to play," said Kupchak. "It's something that started a long time ago and the more I've played the worse it's gotten. I've done more running than I've done in a long time. I'll go as long as I can, as long as I'm not hurting the team."
Kupchak, Unseld and Grevey confined their workouts yesterday to a little shooting. Motta said Unseld has suffered from slightly torn tendons in his right foot while Grevey's pulled hamstring can improve only with rest.
"I wish I knew how bad the ankle is," Unseld said. "I haven't done much on it lately. I'll just go out and see what I can do."
Without Kupchak, Grevey and Unseld, the Bullets have only seven healthy playes, excluding Chenier. Hayes missed yesterday's practice because of the flu but Motta said he would play today.
A 76er spodesman said Erving, the team's leading scorer (23.9), sprained his left ankle with 10:49 remaining in the first half of the 76ers' 117-106 victory over San Diego Friday night.
Erving will be re-examined Monday by team orthopedist Dr. Michael Clancy to determine his status for Wednesday night's contest against Kansas City.