Even the signing of holdout rookie Wes Matthews, the team's No. 1 draft choice might not solve the Washington Bullets' guard problems, Coach Gene Shue said yesterday.
Dick Motta had pleaded for backcourt help virtually his entire four-year career as Bullet coach. And Shue, once again the Bullet coach, is well aware of the lack of a big strong guard who can play defense. He hasn't kept it a secret that he is looking for one. He'd much prefer having two.
Shue is hopping that what he is looking for is already in camp in 6-foot 5 Daryl Strickland, 6-6 Ken Dancy, 6-7 Carlos Terry or 6-6 Francois Wise -- all Bullet rookies.
With Matthews holding out, 5-10 Kevin Porter is the only true playmaking guard in camp. Porter is as clever an assist man as there is in the league, but as Shue said yesterday, "He has limitations.He isn't very big and therefore teams can take advantage of him defensively and he isn't a good outside shooter."
Matthews, a superquick playmaking guard, is a better shooter than Porter, but at only 6-1, defense isn't one of his strengths either.
The other veteran guards in camp are 6-2 John Williamson and 6-5 Kevin Grevey, both shooting guards who provide more offense than defense, which leaves Shue in the uncomfortable position of not having even one of what he considers defensive guards.
As long as Matthews remains out of camp, the Bullets have only one playmaker, too. And that creates problems when the team scrimmages.
Strickland, a fifth-round draft choice from Rutgers, is currently the second team point guard behind Porter. Wise and Williamson are filling in at the position while Terry and Dancy are being converted to the back court.
Shue works the Bullets just as hard on defense as he does on offense and he is particularly concerned about defense in the back court and so far in camp has devoted considerable time to working on it.
"That's where your defense starts," he said. "We have to have strong defense from our guards and you just have to have size to play the kind of defense we need."
Strickland and Dancy are lithe, lean and extremely quick players who are willing and anxious to learn. Their height helps make up for their lack of brute physical strength.
Wise, a fourth-round draft choice from Long Beach State the brother of former ABA and NBA player Willie Wise, has impressed Shue and General Manager Bob Ferry in camp. He has the strength and court presence and has shown the potential to help the team.
Terry, a free agent from Winston-Salem, weighs 220 pounds and is extremely physical. He thinks nothing of banging heads inside with Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Dave Corzine or roughing up people out front with his aggressive play. He's been a forward most of his career but because of his quickness and aggressiveness and the Bullets' need for it, he's being tried at guard. To speed up the conversion, Terry has been getting a lot of extra work on his defense after the two-a-day practices.
Ferry said there has been no progress in the Matthews matter. His agent, Bob Woolf, is in Europe, shopping for a team for another of his clients, Joe Barry Carroll of Purdue, who was the first player picked in the June draft by Golden State, but has not signed a Warrior contract.
"It hurts Matthews' chances of being a starter by not being here, but I don't think there's any problem in him being in shape or making the team," Ferry said.
"If he doesn't sign and come to camp pretty soon, though, we'll have to come up with a point guard from somewhere. It's a little too early to start thinking about that, though."