While another NBA championship banner is being hoisted to the musty rafters of Boston Garden Friday night in honor of the Celtics, the Washington Bullets will be watching and wondering if they can ever recapture that feeling, that honor they enjoyed only three years ago.
The Bullets open the season (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:30) with only two players, Greg Ballard and Kevin Grevey, remaining from the 11-man squad that strung together a series of upsets in the playoffs and beat Seattle on its court to bring a rare world championship to Washington.
Grevey, the only starter then still around, isn't even certain he is a member of this team. Although the Bullets agreed Sept. 28 to match Indiana's four-year offer sheet calling for $300,000 annually, they still haven't settled on all the clauses.
Yesterday, Grevey said the Bullets had been "dragging their feet" on his contract. Later, after talking to General Manager Bob Ferry, Grevey said he was no longer upset that the matter had not been settled.
Ferry said he expects to sign Grevey, but that some details remain. There were several items, including a car, an apartment and a cash settlement if Grevey is traded, to which Bullets owner Abe Pollin has objected.
Grevey was so eager to start practicing that he had a letter written to the league, stating that Indiana's offer sheet would be binding in case of injury. The 6-foot-5 guard started the last three exhibition games and scored 32 points.
Although Coach Gene Shue has been evasive about his starting lineup, partly through uncertainity, Grevey is expected to start the opener alongside John Lucas in the back court.
"Lucas has played very well," Shue said of the former all-America from Maryland signed as a free agent Oct. 19. He has started the last two exhibition games and given the team the ball handling and leadership it was lacking.
"John runs the ball down court, penetrates and gets the offense moving," Shue said. "He's been hustling and playing team defense. He's a quality player."
Rick Mahorn, the fast-improving young center from Hampton Institute, will open in the pivot, but Shue says he's still not certain who his forwards will be.
Ballard has been starting at power forward and led the team in scoring during the exhibition season with a 13.0 aveage. However, the five-year veteran could be switched back to his most familiar small forward spot if Shue decides to call on recently acquired Spencer Haywood.
Rookie Charles Davis has been starting at small forward, so Shue has a choice of Haywood or a rookie unless he changes his mind and puts Don Collins on the quick side. Collins scored 24 points in the last two games as a reserve.
Even if their lineup was settled, it would be extremely difficult for the Bullets to get off to a fast start because of the schedule. After taking on the defending champions Friday night, the Bullets return home to play Philadelphia Tuesday, then travel to Milwaukee for a televised game Thursday night.
"We're all still in a learning process," said Lucas. "It's going to take a while for the offense to get in the groove, so our defense is going to have to carry us. We can't afford any breakdowns.
"I think we'll be a lot better than people think," he continued. "If we can win one of these first three games, we can grow up quick."
The Bullets reduced their roster to the NBA-required 12 by placing guard Kevin Porter and forward-guard Carlos Terry on the injured reserve list.