Where the Washington Bullets' peer group was once the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, it is now the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks.
Once again, it was the same story for the bullets over the weekend. They lost two more games -- one because they couldn't hold a 10-point lead in the final six minutes and the other because they can't keep up with the younger and quicker teams that are emerging in the National Basketball Association.
Saturday night's 111-93 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden was the Bullets' fifth straight, dropping them to 2-9 for the season and pushing them further into the Atlantic Division cellar.
New York's young guards, Ray Williams and Michael Ray Richardson, dominated that game, combining for 46 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and six steals, while commiting only three turnovers, all by Williams.
The Bullets cannot be faulted for their effort; they are trying hard. Even Wes Unseld dove on the floor between two startled Knicks to come up with a loose ball Saturday. As a team, the Bullets have not quit.
Effort, however, is not the problem. Talent is. Coach Gene Shue knows he can't win with the 11 players he has.
Yet he outwardly remains optimistic. "I like jobs that are interesting," he said. "I understand our problems. What I have to do is correct them. That isn't easy."
Shue said that it is the two oldest players in the league, Elvin Hayes and Unseld, who are holding the Bullets together.
"I'm really encouraged by the play of Elvin," Shue said after Hayes scored 18 points and grabbed 18 rebounds against the Knicks "He's out there blocking shots and rebounding well. He started a little slow, but he is picking up now.
"I've been pleased with Wes (Unseld) from the beginning. He has been our one consistent player the entire time. Everything we get from everyone else varies from game to game."
Shue has tried every imaginable combination of players to get something going, but consistently has come up short.
"We just have to get together and execute," said guard Kevin Grevey, the team's leading scorer even though he is averaging only 14.9 points a game and shooting 41 percent.
"We have to do something to get us out of this. Maybe we have to get in a fight or something to get us going."
Hayes says it may be up to Hayes to make something happen.
"We just have to put the ball in the hole," he said. "If we win a couple of games we'll be okay. It may have to take me going out and trying to score 40 points a game, though, to get us going. I may have to do that until everyone else gets in the flow, because the other stuff we're doing sure isn't working."
Forward Bob Dandridge, off to a slow start anyway, averaging 13 points a game and shooting 40 percent, injured his right leg in a third-quarter collision Saturday with Williams and Campy Russell. Dandridge had to be helped to the dressing room by trainer John Lally and did not return to the game.
The injury is in the calf, the area where Dandridge had surgery over the summer to repair a compressed nerve.
The extent of the injury will not be known until today after Dandridge is given a thorough examination by team physician Stan Lavine.
The Bullets have three games this week at Capital Centre. They face the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday, Dallas Thursday and Detroit Friday.