The Washington Bullets did something yesterday they haven't been able to do the last six weeks-practice.
Injuries and a murderous late-season schedule have kept the defending National Basketball Association champions scuffling to have enough people, time and energy for the game, let alone practice.
Everyone was on hand for yesterday's 90-minute workout at Capital Center except Elvin Hayes. Coach Dick Motta gave him the day off because he felt rest would benefit Hayes more than practice.
The Bullets will start their playoff drive against the winner of the Houston-Atlanta series. Atlanta leads that best-of-three series, 1-0. The second game is tonight in Atlanta. If a third game is necessary, it will be played Sunday in Houston.
If the Hawks win tonight, their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Bullets will begin Sunday at 1 p.m. at Capital Centre. The second game of an Atlanta-Washington series would be either next Tuesday or Wednesday, also at Capital Centre.
If the Houston-Atlanta series goes three games, the Bullets would play at Capital Center Tuesday and Friday, no matter their opponent.
Despite dropping their last three regular-season games, the Bullets are primed for the playoffs and they zipped through yesterday's workout with such enthusiasm that Motta and his aide, Bernie Bickerstaff, could barely contain their excitement.
"It was really a good, hardly healthy workout," Motta said. "I think we'll be O.K. Both Kevin (Grevey) and Mitch (Kupchak) said they felt fine and Tommy (Henderson) said he felt good, too.
"We looked like we were ready to play today."
Injuries have plagued the Bullets for months. Of the last 10 games of the regular season, Henderson missed eight with a strained knee, Grevey five with a pulled hamstring, Kupchak five with back spasms, Wes Unseld two with bronchitis and Bobby Dandridge one with a sore back.
Also depleting the Bullet numbers was Larry Wright, who missed the last three games to attend his grandfather's funeral in Louisiana.
So yesterday's workout was a reunion.
"It just keeps our timing and everything," Wright said. "We really needed a practice. I think we're ready to play now. If we aren't . . ."
The Bullets have been off since Sunday and Hayes went home to Houston to rest and Motta said he will be at today's practice. The Bullets also will work out Saturday.
Grevey, who has had sore legs, said he "felt good. My legs have responded to treatment and they felt great today. I just need a few more workouts like this."
With Hayes gone, Kupchak got what Motta called "some much-needed heavy work."
Motta hopes three days of hard practice will help his returning players regain their endurance.
Motta and Bickerstaff scouted the Atlanta-Houston game Wednesday in Houston and were suprised. Motta said Atlanta forward Dan Roundfield played as well as he has ever seen him play and neutralized the Rockets' Moses Malone. Motta reported Rick Barry did "a heck of a defensive job on John Drew," and that Drew made only four shots on Barry all night. "Drek was lucky to make those," Motta said.