The Washington Bullets' fears that guard Kevin Grevey might not be healthy for the National Basketball Association playoffs grew yesterday when he injured another hamstring in the first quarter against Cleveland.
Coach Dick Motta said after the Bullets' 126-112 triumph that "perhaps the only way to make sure Kevin is ready for the playoffs is an enforced leave. Have him sit out the rest of the regular season."
"We've tried everything else. We'll have to sit down with (team doctor) Stan Lavine and take a long, hard look at this. We still have to protect ourselves in the regular season, but we have enough of a lead to mess around a little with him. We can afford to.
"If I had the answer, it would be no problem. We have to do what the doctor says. But Kevin is getting really discouraged and you can't blame him. He's followed orders and he still can't shake it."
Grevey, who has been trying to cure a pulled hamstring in his right leg, pulled a muscle in his left leg yesterday. He had departed Capital Centre by the time the game had ended, but Motta said, "He pulled it just running up the court."
Grevey first pulled a right hamstring Jan. 19 against Chicago. But since, he has not missed more than three games at a stretch, and those were in one week.
Without him, the Bullets are forced to start Charles Johnson, whom Motta would rather use as a reserve. Grevey's absence also severely reduces the team's height in the back court, a weakness opponets quickly try to exploit.
"We just have to hope Phil (Chenier) can keep improving," said Motta.
"That would help. I'm really concerned about our injuries. Kevin is hurt, Greg (Ballard) has a bad knee, Mitch (Kupchak) has a bad back. I'd like everyone to get healthy."
Kupchak, who had back spasms Saturday in Cleveland, played 15 minutes yesterday and scored 10 points. Ballard, who hurt his knee Friday, got in for 13 minutes and had six points. Chenier, still feeling his way back from back surgery, made four of five shots for 10 points.
The Bullets, who have 13 games left, have the luxury of being able to look ahead to the playoffs thanks to a healthy 10 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division and four over Seattle in the race for the league's best record. Motta wants to make it a clean sweep in the regular season, but he also realizes it is just as important to have his players healthy for the playoffs.
At least his team survived a tiring weekend of three games in 44 hours, losing to Milwaukee in double overtime Friday before sweeping back-to-back contests against Cleveland.
Motta didn't see much of yesterday's game from the bench. He was ejected with 7:16 left in the first period after getting into an argument with referee Paul Mihalak.
It was one of the calmest ejections in Motta's career, since he never even stood up before being tossed out. He soon had company, however. Cleveland Coach Bill Fitch, arguing over a 24-second-clock call, was kicked out by referee Jesse Kersey with 6:06 to go in that period.
The two coaches wound up watching the game -- and some NCAA playoff action as well -- on a television set in a room next to the Bullets' locker area.
"We had a nice time talking and visiting," Motta said with a big smile. "I've never seen both coaches get tossed out so fast in a game before."
Fitch was not smiling afterward. His club stayed even with the Bullets until midway through the third quarter, when Washington ran off an 11-0 streak to break open the game.
It was a case of the Bullets having too much talent for the Cavaliers, who are limping through another poor season. Once the Bullets took off, they made eight of their last nine shots in the period to open a 98-81 lead.
The Washington front court again did most of the damage. Both Bob Dandridge and Elvin Hayes had 24 points while Wes Unseld added 20. It was the third time in four games he has scored at least that many points. He also had 17 rebounds.
The Cavs stayed close as long as Campy Russell, who had 35 points, kept a hot hand. But he cooled off in the middle of the Bullet spurt and none of his teammates could bail him out.
Cleveland also couldn't handle the Bullets' offensive execution. Washington worked the ball to its inside men, who responded with seven of those 11 straight points to delight the surprisingly large crowd of 18,360.
Unseld, the league's most accurate shooter, made eight of 11 for the game, hitting six in a row at one point. Although he was six of nine Saturday night, Cleveland persisted in covering him with a forward.
For the weekend, Unseld had 57 points and 49 rebounds. Hayes had 75 points, 43 rebounds and Dandridge had 81 points, 26 rebounds.
"This was a day for the real pros," said Motta. "To come out here and play hard, you have to be a pro. We came through with a workman-like performance. We played well and executed and wore them down."