Mitch Kupchak, the enthusiastic 6-foot-10 Bullet center-forward who underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk June 29, most likely will be activated later this week, Bob Ferry, Bullet general manager, said yesterday.
The other Washington player on the injured list, guard Kevin Grevey, who has a hamstring problem, still is some time away from being ready to play, but the Bullets already are reviewing their roster options concerning him.
"There's a good possibility that Mitch will be activated for this weekend's games," Ferry said.
The Bullets will entertain Cleveland Wednesday, then travel to Texas to play at San Antonio Friday and Houston Saturday.
Kupchak is scheduled for one more major examination before the determination is made exactly when he will be activated.
Kupchak said he feels fine and is ready to play. He began scrimmaging with the team two weeks ago and has not had any setbacks since the surgery. He has looked impressive in practices.
The most likely casualty when Kupchak is activated is rookie Steve Malovic.
Malovic missed most of training camp and the first couple weeks of the season with back and ankle injuries and wasn't activated until Nov. 3. He played six minutes and scored one point against the Boston Celtics, but has not played since.
The Bullets have shopped Malovic around, apparently with no takers. He is unproven and most teams are skeptical about dealing for him when they could wait, see if he is released, and possibly pck him up for nothing.
Utah reportedly is interested in him.
Ferry said that "trades are always a possibility, too. We'll keep looking and exploring. The first step, though, is just to get Mitch back."
The Grevey situation is a little more complicated.
Because of his recurring hamstring problems, the Bullets aren't eager to rush Grevey back and he could still be weeks away from rejoining the team.
"He is working on strengthening his leg now," Ferry said. "He'll be brought along very slowly. It won't be a case where as soon as he feels good we'll throw him back in there. That's what's happened in the past and is probably partly why he keeps reinjuring himself."
Grevey, a starter the last two seasons, played out his option last year and became a free agent, but resigned with the Bullets two weeks after camp opened. He started the first five games, but came up lame.
He sat out the next two games, but when he came back against Cleveland Oct. 31, he pulled the other hamstring. He was put on the injured list Nov. 3, making room for Malovic on the 11-man active roster.
Grevey hasn't worked out with the team since, but shot around for the first time before the Utah hame last Saturday.
"It's going to be awhile yet before I come back," Grevey said. "I'm still getting tests and I'm working with weights. It's not a day-to-day thing any more. I think it's more like week-to-week. I'm not going to rush it this time. Even when I feel like coming back, I'll practice hard a few days first."
Right now, it looks as if 6-5 guard Gus Bailey, barring trades or other injuries, will be released when Grevey is ready. But Bailey has proven to be more than an ordinary 11th man and the Bullets do not want to part with him.
"He's really been valuable to us," Ferry said, "but on an 11-man roster, it comes down to a numbers game. He's a specialty-type player and I'd like to keep him. I don't know how it will be handled, but winning is the ultimate goal."
Bailey has played only 112 minutes this season and is averaging two points a game. But he is the best defensive and rebounding guard and a dependable playmaker.
Motta has often had Bailey in the game at the most critical times.
Against the New York Knicks Tuesday, he came in for the final 13 seconds and blocked a shot by Michael Ray Richardson to preserve a Bullet victory. Against the New Jersey Nets three days later, he came up with the key rebound in the final 10 seconds to set the stage for a one-point Bullet victory.
"It's amazing how some things work out," Ferry said. "We brought Gus in as insurance in case we lost Grevey in the free agent market. Kevin signed with us, but he hasn't played much because of the injuries and Gus has been doing exactly what we brought him here to do.
"In the old days of the 12-man roster, teams could carry that guy who makes the big play in a short period of time, but today it's tough."
Bailey said he doesn't now what will happen.
"I'll just keep doing the best I can and hope for the best," he said.
Ferry, who was getting a little nervous when the Bullet record was 2-5, is breathing easier now that they are 8-7 and says he can see marked improvement in the team.
"We're a very talented team and I think now we're getting somewhat settled," Ferry said. "the ball is getting to the right people at the right time and that's what we're all about."
Two key players in the Bullets' four-game winning streak are Kevin Porter and Roger Phegley.
Porter has averaged 12 points and 9.3 assists in the last six games and has run the team with confidence.
"The adjustment was harder than Kevin thought it would be and harder than we thought it would be, but he really seems to have adapted now," Ferry said. "Those four days of practice before the San Antonio game really helped him."
Phegley, the Bullets' best outside shooter, scored 20 points against New Jersey Friday and 21 against the Jazz Saturday. He is averaging 13.7 points, third highest on the team.
The only other nonstarters in the league with better averages are Junior Bridgeman of Milwaukee, Alex English of Indiana, M. L. Carr of Boston and Austin Carr of Cleveland.
"I think the big difference is that we didn't look like ourselves in those early games we lost," Ferry added. "I think we're back to normal now."