With one week and one exhibition game remaining before the start of the regular season, Washington Bullet Coach Gene Shue says his team has done nothing to excite him.
The Bullets haven't played well in the preseason, having lost five of seven games. Shue is concerned that unless the Bullets get inspired soon, it could be a long season.
The bullets meet the Knicks in the second game of a doubleheader at Capital Centre tonight at 9. In the 7 p.m. opener, the Philadelphia 76ers play the New Jersey Nets.
"Naturally I'd like to be ready to open the season now, since we have only the one exhibition game left, but I'm not," Shue said. "We need next week to work on a lot of things. Everyone has to realize that we are putting in a whole new system and it takes time. It's a complete turnaround from what this team has been used to. Under Dick Motta, they controlled the game with their offense. My philosophy is to control it with the defense. It's the best shot we have at being successful and right now I just don't know what to expect.
"I'm a new coach coming in. I don't know what will happen. We'll have to wait and see. I'll be observing just like everyone else. I'm just now sure how things will work out with this team."
Shue has stressed defense in training camp because he knows that may be the only way this tem is going to win. The Bullets are not going to outfinesse many teams and they aren't going to outrun many, either.
Owner Abe Pollin hired Shue to replace Motta hoping that he would make the Bullets exciting again. But Shue is learning it may be next to impossible to accomplish that goal with the players on the roster.
Shue's San Diego team didn't make the playoffs last year, but it was a wideopen, hoist-'em-up team. The Clippers tried more three-point field goals than any team in the league.
"Last year we led the league in three-point shooting because we had the people to shoot them," Shue said. "With this team, we don't have them. There are only a couple of players here I would trust with the three-point shot."
Kevin Grevey and Greg Gallard are considered the only players with the range to attempt a three-point shot.
Shue still has almost as many unanswered questions about his team as he did the day he took the job. He still doesn't know what to expect from Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld and Bob Dandridge. He doesn't know if No. 1 draft choice Wes Matthews can supplant Kevin Porter and successfully run the team.
"Matthews getting such a late start hurt him," Shue said. "He's playing catch-up and that's so hard because there is a lot to learn. He's done well, though and I'm still going to keep an open mind about the starting lineup."
The Bullets still are carrying 12 players, one over the limit they must be down to by Thursday. Most observers have assumed that the battle for the last spot is between rookies Carlos Terry and Daryl Strickland.
Terry has received more attention from Shue because he can play both guard and small forward. He is an aggressive player, the kind Shue believes he needs so desperately.
Assuming Porter holds onto his job, the only spot where the starter is uncertain at this time is at small forward, where Dandridge and Ballard are vying. Dandridge still hasn't recovered from the compressed nerve injury in his leg that necessitated surgery this summer.
Shue said he would probably wait as long as possible before making the final cut. He added that even though it is "more or less down to those two (Terry and Strickland), I'm not saying it will be one of them who goes."
Shue said he will continue with two-a-day practices at least through Tuesday in an attempt to get the Bullets ready for the regular season.
In tonight's game, fans will see an improved New York club over last year, largely because Michael Ray Richardson, Ray Williams, Larry Demic and Bill Cartwright are a year more experienced. Marvin Webster is healthy and the Knicks acquired Campy Russell to replace Toby Knight, who was lost for the season with a knee injury which required surgery . . . The Nets made more changes than perhaps any other team in the league. They traded former Bullet Roger Phegley to Cleveland for Foots Walker and drafted Mike O'Koren from North Carolina and Mike Gminski from Duke.