The Washington Bullets, desperately trying to salvage a playoff spot, are attempting to make a trade before they embark on next week's crucial seven-game road trip.
"You aren't going to turn things around after 50 games unless you make some changes," said Coach Dick Motta. "You can turn it around after 10, but not after 50."
The Bullets, who have a 23-29 record at the All-Star break, are behind seven teams in the Eastern Conference. Six teams make the playoffs in each conference.
The Bullets have shown interest in John Williamson of New Jersey and Maurice Lucas of Portland, two players who reportedly are available.
The big question facing the Bullets is whether they want to patch, or rebuild.
"We've made the playoffs the last 11 years and in that time Boston has fallen on hard times twice, Philadelphia has been up and down, and the Lakers the same," Motta told Sports Illustrated in its latest issue.
"There is no other team that has maintained the level of excellence that the Bullets have. But because the whole system is set up to help the weaker teams, there will be a time when this one has to rebuild."
That time apparently is now.
After Thursday's 119-103 loss to the Boston Celtics, Motta was in a reflective mood.
"When you're a child," he said, "you go to school, kiss a girl on the first date, get married, have children, work for a number of years and then try to go into retirement gracefully. And you die. Everything goes in cycles. We've been able to put off death for so long."
The idea, Motta said, is not to completely collapse. But it has become evident that this Bullet team will not return to its form of the last two seasons with its present personnel. The Bullets need help, and they know it. s
"You can't feel super in the position we're in right now," Motta said. "We have a team that's six games below .500 and we're facing a seven-game road trip. We'll find out a great deal about ourselves, our players and our front office after this road trip.
"I can safely say that winning the division is out of the picture. All we can hope for now is just to get into the playoffs, and those next seven games are probably going to decide that. I don't know how many wins it'll take, but we'll have to catch at least three teams," Motta said.
The trip begins Thursday in Indiana, then takes the Bullets to Milwaukee, Kansas City, Denver, San Diego, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
"We can't get back to where we were the last two years this year because we don't have the time," Motta said. "We have to be much, much more consistent. We have to avoid the 30 percent shooting nights and we can't have any serious injuries."
Team sources say three prerequisites were necessary for them to be successful this season, and none has come about.
Mitch Kupchak had to return from back surgery and provide the spark that used to ignite the team before his injury.
Roger Phegley had to play a major role, preferably as a consistent scorer.
Kevin Porter had to take charge of the offense and control the team.
"Mitch gave us something you just couldn't measure," Motta said. "I could go to the savings bank and withdraw it whenever I needed it. I haven't been to do that yet this season."
Phegley is not ready to be a consistent NBA starter yet. Some nights he has been spectacular and other nights he has had serious problems. The Bullets also have been dissatisfied with Kevin Grevey for the last two seasons.
Some Bullets say they are tired of playing with an ineffective shooting guard. Until the Bullets get a good big guard, this problem won't change.
Motta said he is not about to desert the ship and that if the Bullets pull together and make the right moves, they still can salvage this season.
He also says he is getting tired of being asked what is wrong with the Bullets.
"It's like beating a dead horse," he said. "We're all doing the best we can."