One of the virtues players must learn when they come into the National Basketball Association is patience, and right now Bullet Coach Gene Shue is in an ideal spot to teach by example.
"I'm very impatient," he said last night after the Bullets finished their exhibition season 3-3 after losing to Atlanta, 94-89, in the first game of the doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.
The New York Knicks beat the Chicago Bulls, 118-110, in overtime in the second game.
"I realize that it's unrealistic, but I want to see some results," Shue said. "Our offense is not fluid, but I guess you really can't expect too much with all the changes we've made."
The addition of John Lucas, of course, required a dramatic adjustment for the team. The six-year veteran from Maryland controls the ball and likes to run. When he's penetrating, the other players have to learn to blend in with him and that takes time.
"I'm feeling more comfortable every game," Lucas said following his 12-point, six-assist, 29-minute performance. "I'm getting to know where everybody is supposed to be."
Spencer Haywood made his debut with the Bullets; the 10-year veteran played 21 minutes, scored eight points and had seven rebounds.
"I'm still fighting jet lag," he said, referring to his all-day flight Saturday from Italy, where he was playing in Venice. "But I feel I can do what I've always done."
Shue was pleased with Haywood's performance and wouldn't discount the possibility that the 6-8 forward will be in the starting lineup Friday night when the Bullets open the regular season in Boston.
"I thought Spencer did quite well," the coach said. "He's in pretty good physical shape. It's going to take some time to get his offensive game together as well as his defense."
When asked about his opening-night lineup, Shue was hestitant before saying that Lucas, Rick Mahorn and Greg Ballard were certainties. He said he hadn't made up his mind where Ballard would be playing.
"A lot depends on Haywood," he replied when asked if Ballard would be at power forward. "It's possible that Spencer could be there. A lot will depend on practice this week."
Ballard was the leading scorer against Atlanta with 18 points in 29 minutes and finished as the team's top point-producer in the exhibition season with a 13.0 average.
With Ballard getting eight points in a 4 1/2-minute span, the Bullets took a 22-18 lead and built their advantage to 38-26 midway through the second period. Brad Holland had all eight of his points in the second quarter and the Bullets led, 48-43, at intermission.
Atlanta rallied in the third quarter when the Bullets made only three of 19 shots. After falling behind, 70-61, at the end of the period, the Bullets several times came back within three points, the last at 84-81, but never got the lead again.