Snow removal difficulties, particularly in Prince George's County, forced the postponement last night of the Bullets-Houston Rockets game at Capital Centre.
The contest has been rescheduled for Thursday night at the Centre, starting at 8:05. Tickets for Tuesday's game will be honored at the gate.
The decision to delay the game was made amid some controversy, especially from the Rockets' end.
The bulk of the Bullet team did not get into Washington until mid-afternoon yesterday from Chicago, where the players had been stranded since early Monday morning. The Rockets, who made it here from New York Monday night, felt that Washington would rather have the postponement to allow the players to recuperate from their travels.
But the National Basketball Association office, which officially made the postponement decision, said the players' dilemma had no influence on its action.
"The (Prince George's) police had advised people not to travel at all," said a league spokesman. "It is a mess out there. The players are the Bullets' problem, not ours."
If a team fails to appear for a regularly scheduled game, it can be fined $15,000, unless the delay was due to "causes beyond reasonable control," according to league rules.
"The main highways around the Centre are fine," said Jerry Sachs, Bullet vice president. "But it's the side roads and subdivisions that are a mess. This side of the beltway got hit harder than the western side, which is unusual.
"We weren't even sure if we had enough people to staff the game. Of about 100 people who normally work at the Centre during the day, only 15 got here.
"The league talked to us, but they made the final decision. It just didn't seem reasonable to ask people to come out and try to drive to this game. Heavens knows how many we would have gotten here."
Neither club had an easy time arriving in Washington.
The Rockets played at New Jersey Sunday, then returned to New York City and left on a train Monday morning for Washington. They finally arrived 7 1/2 hours later after a series of delays, including a long wait behind a freight train that was stuck outside of Baltimore.
The Houston train had no food or water and many of the players and traveling party did not eat for 24 hours. When they pulled into Union Station, they found out their hotel reservations had been canceled, but they secured rooms at another hotel in Rosslyn.
Then Coach Tom Nissalke and guard Mike Newlin flagged down a pickup truck and paid the driver $100 to drive the team to the hotel, which was out of food. So the players walked over Key Bridge to Georgetown Monday night to have dinner.
The Bullets originally were scheduled Monday morning to fly out of Seattle, where they played Sunday afternoon. Then everyone but Kevin Grevey, Elvin Hayes and Coaches Dick Motta and Bernie Bickerstaff decided to leave at 12:30 a.m. Monday and connect through Chicago -- going into Baltimore-Washington or National airport.
But that group never got beyond Chicago Monday after all the Washington-area airports shut down. After spending the night in Chicago hotels, everyone but Roger Phegley and Dave Corzine had arrived in Washington by yesterday afternoon.
The Motta party, flying nonstop from Seattle into Dulles, was on the first plane to arrive at that airport late Monday afternoon. From there they took a cab to Capital Centre.
The Rockets also were upset because the game Thursday will delay their return to Houston. Instead of being able to rest for a couple of days, they will have to go almost immediately to San Antonio for a Sunday contest. They have only one home game until March 10.
Washington now has back-to-back contests. After Houston, the Bullets host another important game, this one against Seattle Friday night.
The Thursday game will mark guard Phil Chenier's first appearance at the Centre in 13 months. He was added to the roster in place of Mitch Kupchak a week ago when the club was on a West Coast trip.
With the emotional aspect of his comeback after back surgery now over, Chenier is beginning to get a clearer idea of the obstacles he must overcome to get more playing time and avoid a return to the injured-reserve list.
In Sunday's game at Seattle, Motta was faced for the first time with trying to play five veteran guards. Chenier wound up sitting out the contest, with the shooting-guard minutes going to starter Kevin Grevey and sub Charles Johnson.
"Phil still has to test that back but he needs game time and I don't know how much he will get" said Motta. "There is just no reason right now to cut back either Kevin or C.J.
"When he does get his chance, he will have to play well enough to make me keep him in. Ironically,... injuries (to other players) have hurt him. We just haven't practiced much because of the injuries and he can use practices to improve his spot and learn the plays better."
After a fine debut effort against San Diego, Chenier was hesitant, Motta thought, against Phoenix "and did not do that well." He improved against Golden State but when Grevey rejoined the team after sitting out with a hamstring pull, Chenier's role was decreased.
"He has to break that psychological barrier with his back," said Motta. "He can't think about it out there. He also knows he has to get into better shape."
Once Kupchak returns, there is the possibility that Chenier could be placed on the injured-reserve list until his game conditioning improves, although Corzine and Phegley also are candidates to sit down.
"I am trying not to get down in the dumps," said Chenier. "I have never been through this type of situation before and I have to keep myself up.
"I feel good but I am not up to where I was before I got hurt. The only thing I can do is try to play well enough whenever I get the chance so I impress him (Motta). Remember, I got on the roster because of a break and it's up to me to make the most of it."