All of the faces will be familiar, but they'll be playing a different style of game when the Washington Bullets begin their second Gene Shue Ear tonight against the Detroit Pistons at the Silverdome.
The Bullets will start their 100-year-old front line of Elvin Hayes (34), Wes Unseld (34) and Bob Dandridge (32). Kevin Grevey and Kevin Porter will be the guards.
Shue wants the Bullets to fast break on offense and to play a pressure, switching defense. That system had mixed results in the exhibition season and Shue admits he isn't sure it will be successful.
"Our front line is slow, so we'll just have to see how they do," Shue said. "I don't really know what to expect. Our three main players -- Wes, Elvin and Bobby -- didn't play particularly well in the preseason, but they're veterans and veterans use the preseason just to get their bodies ready for the regular season. We'll find out if that is the case with this team."
The Bullets under Dick Motta last year were a patterned, forward-oriented team on offense that tried to outmuscle teams at both ends of the floor. They didn't run much and their defense was adequate, at best.
The return of Dandridge and Mitch Kupchak, both injured most of last season, are the two biggest pluses for the team going into the season. Shue is hoping that rookie Wes Matthews can take some of the ballhandling pressure off Kevin Porter.
Dandridge missed half of last season with assorted injuries, the most serious a compressed nerve in his leg that wasn't diagnosed and treated surgically until last summer.
Kupchak was coming off back surgery last year and never regained his old form. He has been bothered by a sore elbow much of the preseason, but says he hasn't had any major problems with his back, although it does get sore.
Dandridge was able to work himself into shape during training camp by working out only once a day -- at the team doctor's suggestion -- while everyone else worked twice. That apparently has enabled his leg to heal.
In the final exhibition game, Candridge made seven of eight shots from the field and had four rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes. He says he isn't 100 percent yet, but he is well enough to play.
The makeup of this Bullet team is vastly different from the one that ended last season. Dandridge and Kupchak were on the injured list and their places on the roster were taken by Ron Behagen and Lawrence Boston. Dave Corzine was the backup center and Jim Clemons and Larry Wright were reserve guards.
Kupchak and Dandridge reclaimed their roster spots from Behagen and Boston and rookie Ricky Mahorn has replaced Corzine, traded to San Antonio. The two new guards are both rookies, No. 1 draft choice Matthews and free agent Carlos Terry.
Now that Kupchak and Dandridge are back, the Bullets have a decent second five -- Matthews and John Williamson at guards, Greg Ballard and Kupchak at forwards and Mahorn at center.
The Pistons were the worst team in the National Basketball Association last year with a 16-66 record. Their prospects don't look much better this time around. First-year coach Scotty Robertson plans to start Greg Kelser and Terry Tyler at forwards, Kent Benson at center and John Long and rookie Larry Drew at guards.
Forward Bob McAdoo hasn't played a game since he pulled a stomach muscle at Capital Centre last March and now is on the injured list. Even worse, Long has a sore ankle, Benson has the flu and Kelser and Tyler both have sore knees. Keith Herron, former Mackin High School and Villanova star, is a reserve forward for the Pistons and should play tonight.
Drew, from Missouri, missed the first 18 practices and the first two exhibition games because of contract troubles.
The Bullets' home opener will be Saturday at Capital Centre against the defending Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia 76ers.