"I get my points in transition and we could'nt run against Atlanta ."
- Tom Henderson
"I've been pressing a little . . . but I'm too good a shooter to go like this much longer ."
- Kevin Grevey
"Our shooting will improve. We are pros ."
Color them beleaguered but optimistic. They are the Bullet guard Corps, saved from goat's horns in the Atlanta series only because of a constant flow of points from Elvin Hayes and Bob Dandridg up front.
"Every dog has his day," said starter Kevin Grevey about the backcourt's future in the playoffs. He and his mates are convinced that, if nothing else, the percentages are with them from now on. They couldn't shoot any worse, so things have to get better - at least that is their reasoning.
"Look at it this way," said playmaker Tom Henderson. "We beat Atlanta despite how we played. We hit maybe 60 percent of our capacity because of the guards.
"That leaves a pretty good future for the team, I think. Once the guards start coming around and helping the guys up front, we are even going to be harder to beat.
"Are we going to get better? You better believe it. We played too well all year and we have too many good guards not to improve. It just happened that everyone but Larry (Wright) had a bad shooting series at the same time. That isn't going to happen again."
Only Wright (49 percent) shot better than 40 percent among the guards in the seven games against the Hawks, whose defense virtually eliminated most of the Bullets' pet perimeter scoring plays. Otherwise, the statistics are pretty dismal: Henderson 33 percent, Grevery 39 percent, Phil Chenier 22 percent. The five wound up contributing 32.4 points a game to their team's 100-point-per-contest average.
The guards say the next series should mean an end to their slump.
"Against a team like Atlanta, we have to set up more." That means the ball goes inside a lot," said Grevey before last night's seventh game beween the 76ers and Spurs.
"But if we can start running, you can get a lot of quick baskets and the whole court opens up. We know we can run against either San Antonio or Philadelphia. I know if i can get into the flow early, my whole game picks up.
"Anyway," said Henderson, "no one will ever play defense against us like the Hawks. They could zone us and it was effective. You'd run a guy off a pick and he was supposed to be lost but somehow someone would be there to still cover you. It got frustrating."
The last thing anyone expected, especially the guards themselves, was that the entire corps, save for Wright, would slump at the same time. Hendderson thinks he knows why.
"At least in my case and in Kevin's, we were coming off injuries," he said. "It's no excuse, just fact. I know I'm just getting back into shape now. When your legs don't feel right, you don't jump right and your shot is affected.
"With Kevin and me in the flow again, our execution will improve. We won't have to be so precise in this next series; our fast break will take some of the pressure off our offense and we all will benefit from that."
Coach Dick Motta is trying to downplay the guard problems. He said yesterday that the club "doesn't look for offense from the back court that much, anyway.
"I don't know how much Alanta's defense had to do with it. We weren't getting the open shots we normally do. We had to work for everything we got. Neither of these next teams will be like that. And then the points will come from the guards."
Johnson, the wise veteran who refuses to recognize that the world is made up of "streak shooters," said that fans overlooked "how we did other things well when we weren't shooting.
"I know I talked it over with (Assistant Coach) Bernie Bickerstaff and he told me to concentrate on defense and hustling. We had to make up for the points in other ways.
"I didn't press and I don't think anyone else did, either. My shooting will come; it always does. Offense is the easiest facet of the game. It's the other stuff that makes you work hard."
Of all the guards, Grevey is more susceptible to the pressures of a slump. He admits he lacks confidence in his game and when the best part of his talents - his shooting - falls apart, the rest quickly joins the tumble.
By the seventh game against Atlanta, he was shooting off balance and forcing almost every attempt. The frustration showed and he was benched much of the second half.
"Over a long period of time, things even out," he said. "I know my history. I don't shoot poorly for long. I had one real good shooting quarter (in Game 5) when everything felt comfortable but, other than that, I really never had a rhythm in the series.
"I just have to get rid of all the outside distractions. This is the time when it's glory for everyone. You have to forget the attention and keep in the same pattern as you did in the regular season.
"Our offense just didn't click against the Hawks. It's like an off-tackle play. If everyone does their job right, you pick up five yards like it's designed to do. But if one thing is off, the play breaks down. That is what was happening to us."
Look at it this way, said Henderson. "We didn't have a good series from me, Kevin, C.J. or Greg Ballard, because he didn't have that much time.
"What if all four of us get on our game at the same time from now on? I think Atlanta peaked for us but we aren't anywhere near our potential yet. When we start clicking, then people are going to see the real Bullets."
Mitch Kupchak was sick and missed practice yesterday . . . Motta and Bickerstaff scouted last night's game at San Antonio but will be back in time today for an afternoon workout . . . The Bullets spent much of the practice working on offensive execution. "It was a great practice," said Motta.