Although the season opened Friday night, training camp is not over for the still-experimenting Bullets.
Coach Gene Shue said he won't use the same starting lineup in Tuesday night's home opener with Philadelphia as he did in a 124-100 defeat in Boston.
"We'll make some changes up front," Shue said before sending his players' through a two-hour workout yesterday at Fort Meade. "We've still got a lot of experimenting to do."
The obvious change will be at the power forward spot. Jim Chones was a surprise starter against the Celtics, but the 31-year-old veteran hardly took advantage of the opportunity.
While playing 22 minutes, the 6-foot-11 acquisition from Los Angeles made two of seven shots, had two rebounds and committed five fouls.
"I started Jim because of his experience," Shue said. "With all the festivities, playing the champions and all, I wanted to go with my veteran players."
Chones did not start any of the exhibition games. He averaged 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds while playing about 22 minutes a game. Greg Ballard played power forward exclusively, but was shifted to the other forward spot for the Celtics.
Ballard responded with a 21-point performance, making nine of 14 shots, but he, too, collected just a pair of rebounds as the Bullets were outrebounded, 43-38.
"We were looking for rebounding, so I used a big lineup," Shue said. "But Philadelphia isn't starting its two big men, so we can make a change."
Coach Billy Cunningham of the 76ers has replaced 7-1 Caldwell Jones at power forward with Bobby Jones. Shue could put Ballard at that spot and use either Don Collins or rookie Charles Davis at the quick side. It seems unlikely, however, that he would use Davis against Julius Erving, particularly in front of a home crowd.
Spencer Haywood is a possible starter, but the recently signed free agent is not yet familiar with the plays and did not perform well in Boston. Although he made three of four shots and scored 10 points, he committed five of the team's 17 turnovers in just 18 minutes.
During one stretch in the second quarter he made three straight ball-handling errors. In that span, the Celtics outscored the Bullets, 18-2, to open a 51-33 advantage.
"That one bad spell killed us," Shue said. "Up until then we had pretty good tempo, but we lost control. We became careless with the ball and they took advantage of it. The Celtics are a tremendous team and once they get a big lead like that at home, not many teams are going to catch them."
The most encouraging aspect for the Bullets was the performance of Rick Mahorn. The 6-10 center made seven of 10 shots, scored 15 points and collected 12 rebounds, although he got in early foul trouble.
While trying to contain Robert Parish, the game's top scorer with 22 points, Mahorn picked up three fouls in the first 14 minutes and had to sit out the rest of the first half. When he sat down, the Bullets were trailing, 31-27, but by intermission they had fallen behind, 62-43.
"I thought Rick played very, very well until he made some careless fouls," Shue said. "When he went out with his third foul it really hurt us."
Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who has been working with Mahorn in training camp, said the youngster from Hampton Institute has a tendency to foul, but that he must learn how important he is to the team and try to be more careful without sacrificing any aggressiveness.
Jeff Ruland made his debut as a backup center and had seven rebounds in 14 minutes. However, he made only one of seven shots, having two blocked by Kevin McHale, and his lack of quickness hindered him defensively as he committed five fouls.
The Celtics were able to get high-percentage shots easily against the Bullets' inexperienced defense and made a remarkable 65 percent (40 of 61) in the first three quarters when they ran up a 97-79 advantage.
"I think the Bullets are going to be better than a lot of people think once they get used to playing together," said Celtic Coach Bill Fitch.