The Washington Bullets open training camp today at Fort Meade with the likelihood of a new starting back court consisting of Kevin Porter and Roger Phegley.
Porter, who was signed by the Bullets as a free agent in the offseason, has a virtual lock on his position as the team's floor general, while Phegley, a little-used rookie a year ago, apparently has the inside track on the big-guard spot held last season by the much-maligned Kevin Grevey.
The fact that Grevey, a free agent, is embroiled in a contract dispute with the Bullets and is not expected in camp for awhile -- if at all -- has increased the sharp-shooting Phegley's stock immeasurably.
The other veteran big guard on the roster, Phil Chenier, is trying to regain the form that made him an All-Star before a back injury shelved him most of the last two seasons. He underwent surgery last September.
"If Kevin were in camp, it would be up to the others to beat him out," said Coach Dick Motta, "but with him not out there, and I doubt seriously if he will be, a position is up for grabs."
Team sources have indicated all summer long that the Bullets think very highly of Phegley and feel he is the one who will be the starter when the season opens Oct. 12.
"I think Roger has to be given a chance," motta said yesterday. "I'm excited about him. I can't believe how well he played with Kevin (Porter) on the China trip. He just floated to the open areas. I just hope what I saw of him is for real."
Phegley was the Bullets' leading scorer in the three games they played on their just-completed tour of China and the Philippines. He scored 24, 27 and 31 points.
"I played pretty well over there, but I was wide open most of the time, too," Phegley said. "We weren't playing NBA-CALIBER players and everone realizes that, but they wanted to see if I could hit the open shots and I think I showed them Can.
"Kevin and I worked really well together over there. We showed it's a combination they'll have to consider strongly when the season starts."
Even though Phegley said he had not been told in so many words that he is the leading candidate for a starting job, he said he senses what the Bullets have in mind for him. "It kind of sinks in," he said.
"I'm real pleased to feel I fit in so well with their plans. I was told when I came here that I would get a good shot at a starting position, but I didn't expect it to be in my second year. I'm coming into camp with the idea to take his (Grevey's) spot.
"Kevin took a lot of abuse that he didn't deserve last year," Hegley added. "I learned a lot from him and it's not a thing where we won't be friends after camp, but I'm going after his job.
"It goes deeper, though. You have to bring Phil into it. If he gets his game back together, he'll be tough.
"It's also tough for a team to keep three big guards and I'm sure Phil is coming into camp with similar eyes on the starting job. I just have to look at this as being an opportunity to show I am capable," Phegley said.
Phegley's major asset is shooting. "For as many years as I've been playing, I've always been able to put the ball in the basket," he said. "That's what's gotten me to where I am today."
Having a shooter like Phegley, now that the Bullets have Porter, is almost a necessity. Porter, who set an NBA assist record last season, penetrates and gets the ball to the open man, so well that a good shooter alongside him should have a field day.
"There aren't that many guys in the league who can guard Kevin, so the other guard starts shooting over to help on him," Phegley said. "That gives me the little opening to get my shot."
Phegley played only 153 minutes last season and averaged 2.9 points a game. He went on the injured-reserve list Feb. 25 with acute viral gastroenteritis.
After he got well, he went to all of the practices, games and meetings. He sat, observed and listened.
"He sat next to us on the bench and we pumped that kid full of knowledge," Motta said. "I think psychologically he's ready."
"I still know there are a lot of things I have to improve on," the 6-foot-7 Phegley added. "I have to learn to play good position defense and use my size to my advantage."
The Bullets list Phegley at only 6-6. "I was 6-7 until I got here, but I don't think they want to list me taller than Wes (Unseld). He's stretching to make 6-7."
Although his playing time was limited last season, Phegley said he did gain experience. "I learned more watching the Bullets play 80 games than if I had played in 70 or 80 games for a losing team. We always do things the same way here, no matter who we play. We get in a rut, but it's a good rut to get in.
"I learned a lot about our team last year. Camp will give the players a chance to learn more about me."
Veterans aren't scheduled to report until Monday, but most of them will be on hand for this evening's practice. . .Rookies and free agents will begin practices this morning at 9:30. . . The Bullets signed four free agents yesterday to go with the eight rookie draftees they are expecting in camp. The free agents are 6-5 guard Gus Bailey, a three-year NBA veteran who has played for both Houston and Salt Lake City; 6-4 forward Archie Aldridge, a 1978 Bullet draftee from Miami of Ohio; 6-6 forward Norman Black from St. Joseph's and 6-4 guard Ron McFarland from St. Mary's of Halifax, Nova Scotia.