Roger Phegley was a starting guard when the Washington Bullet veterans had their first workout of training camp yesterday. Coach Dick Motta said that when absentees Kevin Grevey and Phil Chenier return, "They have to take the job away from him."
Meanwhile, Grevey's agent, LaRue Harcourt, said that barring any new developments, Grevey, a free agent, will probably re-sign with the Bullets within the next week and report to camp.
Last week, Harcourt said he was at an impasse with the Bullets and he did not know how long Grevey would be out, but the agent reversed himself yesterday.
"If they (the Bullets) will agree to a one-year contract at the same money they are offering in the first year of the three-year deal they want us to accept, then Kevin will be there tomorrow," Harcourt said.
"If they say no to that and if we don't get anything better in the next couple of days, we'll have to call (BULLET General Manager Bob) Ferry and tell him we will accept their original offer because Kevin wants to play and if he doesn't sign with the Bullets it looks like he won't play anywhere."
The fact that Motta apparently has given the big guard spot to Phegley, a virtually untried second-year man, is unprecedented for the veteran coach. He is sold on the 6-foot-7 sharpshooter, even if the decision does not sit too well with some, including center Wes Unseld.
"I have nothing at all against Roger, but I don't understand how they can just give someone a job," Unseld said "Kevin (Grevey) isn't here by his own choice (because of a contract dispute), but what about Larry (Wright), C. J. (Charles Johnson) and Phil (Chenier, who missed yesterday's session with back spasms)?
"I'm glad it's their decision and not mine. I just hope they know what they're doing."
Motta insists that he does.
"If Kevin had been here from the beginning the others would have had to beat him out," Motta said. "Its Roger's spot now because he's the one who's here. If the others come to camp now and beat him out, then fine. It's that simple."
"The one question we had about Roger was his toughness," Motta said, "and he's shown us he's plenty tough. He's just too damned solid not to play. He does too many things and he listens and he concentrates. He just does the right thing."
Phegley is not the only new starting Bullet guard. The flamboyant, high-stepping Kevin Porter has returned and he is being counted on to lead a new look, fast-breaking, wide-open Bullet offense.
After sending the 17 players present yesterday morning through various warm-up drills, Motta divided them into units. On the red-shirted first five with Porter and Phegley were Unseld, Bob Dandridge and Elvin Hayes -- "the best front line in the game," according to Porter.
"This is one of the first times I've ever given red shirts out to the starting five on the first day of practice," Motta said. "I usually mix them up on different units for a while, but I want the other four to get used to playing with Kevin. We aren't going to do any scrambling.
"If we had to start a game tomorrow, this would be our starting lineup."
Porter, who played three games alongside Phegley on the Bullets' recent trip to China and the Phillippines, is almost as high on him as Motta is.
"He's a great shooter and he has a lot of range," Porter said. "One thing I really like about him, too, is that he's hard-nosed. He reminds me a lot of John Havlicek the way he uses his body."
Porter, however, remains the key to the Bullet offense this season.
"He'll make a difference, that's for sure," Motta said. "I think the big thing of training camp is to see how he fits in and takes over. I don't think there's any doubt the players respect him and will follow his lead.
"He gives us a dimension that's very important -- he'll give us a lot of easy baskets. There are some things you can't defend against and one of them is the wide-open fast break, and that's where Kevin is at his best.
"I expect this team to be really good."
Porter played yesterday as if he had never been away from the Bullets, whipping fancy passes through heavy traffic to Hayes and Unseld and finding Phegley and Dandridge for open jump shots.
"It's a different atmosphere than when I was here before," Porter said. "It's more poised.These people were world champions two years ago and Eastern Conference champs last year. I just hope I can blend in.
"I know they are looking to me to be the leader," Porter added. "And that's what I will try to be. Either the guys will accept me or they won't. We'll see as camp progresses. I think everyone realizes I'm most effective when I have the ball and I will try and get everyone good shots."
Motta said the players "didn't seem really enthused" after the first workout, "but I didn't expect them to be." ...Motta added that he is particularly pleased with free-agent guard Gus Bailey and rookies Marshall Ashford and Charlie Floyd.