The National Basketball Association season has just begun, but if what has happened so far is any indication, the Bullets are in for a long and wild year.
The Bullets have played only six games, but they already have had enough travel snafus, injuries, misunderstandings and last-second losses to drive Coach Dick Motta up the wall. But if there is one thing Motta has learned in 12 years in the league, it is not to let things beyond his control bother him.
"You've got to flow with the flow," Motta shrugged today, an off-day before his team faces the Indiana Pacers Friday night in a televised game (WDCA-tv-20, 9:05 p.m.).
This two-game, four-day road trip began Wednesday and has been typical of what life has been like for the Bullets so far this season.
To begin with, because of a breakdown in communications, guard Kevin Grevey was back home caring for his pulled hamstring muscle when Motta was under the impression he had only missed the plane to Detroit and would arrive there late.
Thirty minutes before tipoff, Motta had to find out from the Detroit Pistons' public relations director that Grevey was still home.
Motta knew Grevey had the injury, but Grevey practiced with the team Tuesday and Motta had expected him to be at the game.
Motta said one of his other players stopped by Grevey's house on his way to the airport Wednesday morning, but Grevey wasn't ready to go, and the player left without him.
So Motta thought Grevey was only going to be late and wasn't very concerned when he didn't show up at the airport. Motta said he expected Grevey to get to the game on his own, at his own expense, which is the club's policy when a player misses a flight.
Grevey never made it, and Motta never found out why until this morning when he talked to General Manager Bob Ferry.
Ferry said Grevey went to therapist Bill Neill's office in the morning to receive treatment on his leg. Neill's office called at 10 a.m. to tell Ferry that Grevey wouldn't be making the trip, but the word never got to trainer John Lally or Motta. The coach ended up looking rather foolish when he had to admit to reporters that he didn't know the whereabouts of one of his starting guards.
The Bullets, meanwhile, had notified the NBA office that Grevey would play Wednesday, so practically the whole world knew what was going on except the man who should have known first -- Motta.
A somewhat similar incident occurred last week in a mixup over a treatment schedule. Bob Dandridge missed a practice and didn't go on the trip to Boston. Again, Motta was the last to find out.
Wednesday's problems escalated beyond the Grevey affair. The Bullets arrived at their hotel at 10:30 a.m. and their rooms weren't ready. As a result, they had to hang around the lobby killing time for three hours, answering streams of questions from inquisitive fans.
Whether the room hassle was to blame or not, the Bullets played the first half Wednesday as if they had traveled across the country, falling behind by 18 points. They made a second-half comeback but still lost to the Pistons, 104-103.
They have now lost four games this season. In three of the defeats, they had the ball and a chance to win in the final seconds, but couldn't come up with the baskets.
Wednesday, they had the ball with eight seconds left and were one point down, but Phil Chenier's 14-foot jump shot wouldn't fall.
In their opener against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Bullets were down by a point in the final seconds and a Greg Ballard shot bounded off the rim.
The following night, against the New York Knicks, they had the ball with 23 seconds left and the score tied and couldn't get off a good shot. The game went into overtime and the Bullets lost again.
"Those were all games where we had good shots and we were in good position," Motta said. "We shouldn't lose games like that."
No, an experienced, talented team like the Bullets shouldn't lose games like that. But when a team has to hang around a hotel lobby for three hours the day of a game, when the coach doesn't know where some of his players are on the day of a game, it is understandable how that team can lose some games it shouldn't lose.
"All of these little annoyances add up, but it's early in the year," Motta said. "I try not to let it bother me, but if it does, it's way down deep and I try not to show it. We're expected to make adjustments and we all have to do it. That's the nature of this game."
The season is still very young and the Bullets are in no way panicking. But because of injuries and the adjustments they have been trying to make on the floor they don't need any off-the-court hassles. So far, there have been far too many.