Jim Cleamons has been in town four days. Already he has given Dick Motta every reason to believe his presence will help the Bullets shake out of their early-season slump.
The Bullets acquired Cleamons from the New York Knicks Tuesday for a third-round NBA draft choice. He is the type of guard Motta has always wanted, but never had in his four years as the Washington coach until now.
The 6-foot-4, 30-year old Cleamons is a hard nosed playmaking big guard who can play defense and shoot.
Just as important, in only one quarter of the game action and two days of practice with the Bullets, Cleamons demonstrated he can be a leader.
"I hope everything I've seen so far is true, "Motta said yesterday. "You try not to get too excited when a new guy comes in, but it's tough not to get excited about Cleamons. He played the entire fourth quarter in the Bullets' 107-104 loss at capital Centre. He will probably play a lot tougher when the Bullets host the Atlanta Hawks tonight at 8:05.
Some team sources say that in time Cleamons even will push Kevin Porter for his starting guard spot.
"He's a real student of the game," Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "He has picked up the offense better and quicker than any new player we've ever had except for Bob Dandridge. Our offense is based on just doing the right things, and Cleamons does the right things. Basketball is a simple game if you do it right.
"I've always been impressed with his defense,' Bickerstaff continued. "He's always been able to pick people up in the backcourt and make them consume time on the 24-second clock.
"I was first impressed by him when we played Cleveland in the playoffs back in 1976. He ran (Coach Bill) Fitch's offense and he always hit the right man. He was in the game mentally, too. He's also an outgoing, on-the-court type leader like we need. He's confident in his leadership ability too. A lot of guys come into a new situation and are apprehensive about being a leader, but there are ways to do it and I think Jim will.
"The Bullets got a hell of a bargain. He isn't the panacea, but just a part of what we need, you don't want to get real excited about him because a lot of guys come in and talk all intelligently but it isn't the same when they go on the court. Jim plays the same way he talks -- like he knows what he's doing.
"Basketball is my profession," said Cleamons, a former Ohio State academic All-America. 'I spend time thinking about it and studying it. Systems are different, but the basics are the same. It's like a doctor working on a human body. Every one is different but they all have the same organs."
"This could be a good situation for me." Cleamons added. "This team likes to run and I like to run, you can't every time you get the ball, though. You have to slow down and set up sometimes."
When they have had to slow down and set up, the Bullets have had their problems this season. Motta is hoping Cleamons will help that part of the Bullets' game.
"Basketball is a game of completeness and if you can do everything, it can only help," Cleamons said. "I think I can play alongside all of the other guards here."
Cleamons was the Los Angeles Lakers' first draft pick in 1971 and went to the Cavaliers the next season. After five years in Cleveland he was signed by the Knicks as a free agent. He started 71 games for them last season, but New York decided to go with youth this season and felt there wasn't room for both Cleamons and Earl Monroe. So Cleamons went.
"From playing against the Bullets all these years, I've learned that you know what they are going to do, but the thing is to try and stop them," Cleamons said. "They have a winning tradition and a lot of pride here. I'm coming to an organization that doesn't want to lose, and neither do I."
Motta says he feels better with Phegley on the bench, ready to give him a spark in the second quarter. So Kevin Grevey will start tonight in only his second game after coming off the injured list . . . The Bullets got one scare at practice yesterday when Grevey and Mitch Kupchak went down in a pileup under the basket and another later when Dandridge twisted his ankle. Grevey and Kupchak escaped unhurt and Dandridge, who left the workout with trainer John Lally to ice his ankle, is expected to play tonight.