"As soon as the season is over, they're going to back a big old moving van up to the locker room and ship out all of the dead weight. That's not going to leave many of us left."
The speaker was Washington Bullet guard Larry Wright, one man who does not expect to return next season. He probably will not be alone.
Coach Dick Motta also may be among the missing. Although owner Abe Pollin told The Washington Post last week he expects Motta back for the final year of his contract, sources say the coach wants out if at all possible.
They say he does not like or respect many of his players, and there are indications many of his players feel the same way about him.
"Two things hurt us this season," one player said. "We didn't have a bench, or a coach."
Motta has declined to talk about his plans for the future lately, insisting that he is only concerned about winning basketball games and making the playoffs.
Right now, the Bullets are a team of spare parts, and there is no question that there will be a major overhaul in the offseason, even if they do limp into the playoffs.
About the only way to avoid a housecleaning would be for the Bullets to advance to the championship round. The way they've been playing lately, that seems highly unlikely.
The 11-man roster that will represent the team in their regular-season finale today in Piscataway, N.J., against the Nets is considered laughable around the NBA.
The starting five of Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Kevin Grevey, Kevin Porter and Greg Ballard is decent enough. But the reserves lack talent.
Consider the last three Bullet acquisitions. They got an overweight John Williamson from the Nets in a trade, Lawrence Boston from Rochester of the Continental League and Ron Behagen from Italy. None of the three has proven to be of much value, except to fill out the roster. None of them are expected to be here next year, either.
Of the other players currently under contract, Unseld is seriously considering retiring, Hayes wants to play in Dallas, Porter doesn't know if the Bullets want him around, Wright will be a free agent (the Bullets haven't even made him an offer to stay) and Dave Corzine doesn't really figure in their plans.
Jim Cleamons and Grevey probably will be back. Ballard is the best and most valuable player they have right now. Bob Dandridge doesn't know if the club wants him back, or if he wants to come back, and Mitch Kupchak doesn't know if he can ever come back.
The present is bad, and now the future looks bleak.
The Bullets will pick somewhere near the middle of the draft this year, after all of the franchise builders are long gone. They must rebuild virtually from scratch.
After a recent game that featured another dismal performance, Motta gathered his players together. He told them he couldn't understand how the same team that won the NBA championship two years ago and was runner-up last year could play so badly.
"It's not the same team," Grevey said.
The injuries to Dandridge and Kupchak took away two of the Bullets' top six players, and their depth. And when Charles Johnson was cut during training camp, they lost some of their soul, a player who could keep his teammates loose and involved.
Unseld has had one of his best years ever, the only Bullet to have started every game. He only signs one-year contracts and is closer to retiring now than ever before. He and owner Abe Pollin will get together after the season to decide if he will be back.
Hayes is still one of the premier players in the league, even at 34. He can run all night and when he comes to play, he can dominate a game. Hayes has at least one more year left on his contract and Pollin has indicated that he wants Hayes back. Hayes has indicated he wouldn't mind playing for Dallas, allowing him to finish his career in Texas, where he lives in the offseason. Pollin should prevail.
Ballard has one year remaining on his contract before the Bullets will have to spend big money to keep him. He is their hope for the future, the one player on the Bullets every other team in the league is interested in.
Grevey has silenced many of his critics lately. He has improved his defense and has always hustled. He has had trouble with shooting virtually all season. He also has another year left on his contract, and is expected to return next year.
Williamson has been a major disappointment. The Bullets mortgaged part of their future, trading Roger Phegley, to get him. He was supposed to be a life preserver, but turned into an anchor.
He has told Motta on at least two occasions that he did not feel like playing. He doesn't play defense and he is still too heavy. Williamson is under contract through next season, but it is doubtful that he will back.
Porter returned to the Bullets as a hero, soon went into the doghouse and just started playing well a few weeks ago. He has improved his stock a great deal. He is under contract for the next four years, so it would be difficult to unload him even if the Bullets want to.
Motta says Cleamons is the smartest guard he's had in his tenure here. He has proved he can run the offense. Even if he doesn't start, he can come in and give the Bullets guidance off the bench. He is probably their best defensive guard right now, too.
Wright is probably the most talented Bullet guard. He has quickness, a good shot and the ability to turn a game around. But he is a liability on defense and Motta does not feel comfortable with the ball in Wright's hands.
If he is not offered a new contract, he could be the kind of player who returns to haunt his old team. He may not be a terror on defense, but right now the Bullets have no one who could guard him if he played for another team.
Corzine has another year left on his contract, too. He is an adequate backup center who tries hard but he is by no means ready to play regularly. He'll probably be back next year.
Dandridge is expected to have surgery soon to remove the calcium from his knee. If he wants to play in Washington he should be welcomed back.
Kupchak is still a major question mark. There is deep concern that his career, slowed by major back surgery, is in jeopardy. But he insists he will be back and as good as ever next season.