Washington Bullet forward Mitch Kupchak said yesterday he is recovering well from recent back surgery, will be on hand for the start of training camp Sept. 14 and hopes to be ready for full-contact action by early October.
"I feel a lot better," said the 6-foot-10, 25-year-old Kupchak as he looked to his fourth professional season. The season opens Oct. 12. first day," Kupchak said. "It's natural for me fourth week I'll get back into full-contact play. surgery just before last season, came back late follow in the pecking order.
St. Louis has been visualized as choosing Craig Hartsburg, another of those superior WHA defensemen, but General Manager Emile Francis has not confirmed that choice. Detroit is expected to go for Mike Foligno, a right wing who was voted Canada's outstanding junior last season following a 65-goal, 150-point Birmingham; right wing Mike Gartner, a 27-goal scorer for Cincinnati of the WHA, left wing Michel Goulet, who netted 28 goals for Birfingham, and left wing Brian Propp, who Tom McCarthy, a 69-goal left wing with Oshawa of the OHA. on
"Mitch has had the operation before and he played just as recklessly after he came back," said Bullet Coach Dick Motta. "I can't picture him showing up to play and seeing other than his normal self. Everyone concerned is really optimistic."
The other principal pice of offseason business concerning Motta between fishing and camping trips with his family along Idaho's Bear Lake, is how to juggle a roster that numbers 13 - two above the 11-man league limit - not including draft picks.
The acquisition of 6-10 Steve Malovic from Phoenix and the reactivation of Roger Phegley, who finished last season on the injured list, have left Motta with some difficult decisions.
One spot may resolve itself should free agent guard Kevin Grevey sign with one of the four other teams reportedly seeking his services. Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry has offered the 6-5 veteran starter what he terms "a substantial increase" over his $160,000 salary of last season but has not met with Grevey since negotiaions began early last week.
Motta has said he would like to have Gevey back but, "It's not my money he's asking for."
A lackluster championship series against Seattle's Dennis Johnson should not have lowered Grevey's market value, according to Motta.
"I would imagine Kevin still has a fine market value," Motta said. "He was bothered by a bad hamstring during the playoffs. But when you're a starter on a team that won it all one year (1977-78) and made it to the finals the next, you're doing something right. Johnson killed everybody he played against in the postseason. I don't think Grevey's reputation was tarnished."
If Grevey does not come back, Phegley and Chenier will battle for the starting big guard slot. The uncertainty over Chenier's return to all-star form combined with Phegley's versatility could settle another roster spot.
Motta has stressed the necessity of carrying two two-way players on the squad. Kupchak can play all three front-court positions. During preseason, Phegley, a second-year performer out of Bradley University, will get a shot at playing both shooting guard and small forward.
"Phegley played both guard and small forward in college; he's probably a better forward than guard," Motta said. "But the most important thing is how well he can play guard. This will be the pivotal year in his career."
Motta asked how Phegley had performed in the summer league here and was informed the 6-7 sharp-shooter had scored at a 35-point-plus clip.
"We're not worried about Roger's shooting," Motta said. "If he can get open off a screen and dump in the open shot, then he and (newly acquired free agent) Kevin Porter could be an effective tandem."
Motta was asked what effect the installation of the three-point field goal might have on the game.
"It depends on the individual coaches' philosophies," he said. "Some former American Basketball Association coaches I've talked to about it say it opens things up more down the middle.
"We'll experiment with it a great deal during the preseason. But I can't picture it as being a great part of our offense. We win by going inside. That's where our strength is.
"The main difference will be that in the final three minutes of a close game, you'll have to defense against it."
How about the Bullet prospects for reaching the finals next season?
"We had one of the best years in the history of the league," Motta replied. "With everyone pointing at us, being up for every game, we still compiled the best record.
"We were sputtering, yet still made it to the finals. This team is still willing to do those things that got us there."
How about the change in the schedule that now has teams playing conference opponents six times and non-converence foes only twice?
"That will work more to our favor than to Seattle's (which beat the Bullets in five games in last season's championship series). The West Conference is slightly tougher," Motta said. "Plus, Seattle won't play very many flat teams." CAPTION: Picture, Dick Motta