If your rich uncle dies and leaves you two Bullet season tickets in his will, go to court to have the will thrown out. These Bullets will lose 50 games, their most since 1966. By January, burglars will break into your house and put Bullet tickets in your wallet. Juries will sentence folks to the good seats at Cap Centre, and smart lawyers will appeal on grounds of unusual punishment. We're talking serious pain here.
Even without the unkind booing he got the other night, Abe Pollin knows this will be his longest winter as boss of the downtrodden Capitals and second-hand Bullets. The Caps are afraid of shadows, and the Bullets are such a rag-tag collection of anonymities, castoffs and lost luggage that the question on first sighting is, "Who are these guys?"
You know Greg Ballard, Kevin Grevey and Rick Mahorn. Don Collins came to town midway last season.
The other eight are mystery guests.
Two came from Europe: Spencer Haywood and Jeff Ruland. Two are rejects from Los Angeles: Jim Chones and Brad Holland. Another was suspended by Golden State during last season and was bid fond adieu this summer: John Lucas. Three are rookies whose ability ranges from nice to adequate to oh-my: Frank Johnson, Charles Davis and Garry Witts.
Welcome to the Washington Home for Wayward Hoopsters.
For 13 seasons, Bullet fans looked down and said God's in His heaven. That's because Wes Unseld always showed up. He was the rock upon which the franchise rested. Ten seasons, the Bullets were over .500; a dozen years, they made the playoffs; and four times in the NBA championship finals, they once won it.
Pollin walked to midcourt at halftime of the Bullet-76er game Tuesday to retire Unseld's jersey. Many of the 12,666 customers booed Pollin and a few heckled the owner as he praised Unseld. The harassment may be born of the idea Pollin has allowed the Bullets to fall so far so fast without Unseld.
Not only is Unseld gone, so is Elvin Hayes, and so are Mitch Kupchak and Bobby Dandridge.
The damage is not in their absences. Hayes and Dandridge should have been dumped much earlier. The crime is that in return for players who made the Bullets good, Pollin and General Manager Bob Ferry received nothing of NBA value.
The Bullets got a second-round draft choice from L.A. in the Kupchak deal (the Lakers pay part of Chones' and Holland's salaries so anxious were they to unload them). For Hayes, the Bullets got two second-rounds, and for Dandridge a fifth-rounder.
Good NBA teams can become mediocre quickly. The Bullets' slide is uncommonly precipitous. The slide is apt to take the Bullets a long way down. This was obvious in Tuesday's 112-99 defeat by Philadelphia.
The 76ers were best by 30, not 13. Julius Erving and Darryl Dawkins didn't play the last quarter. In a serious game -- say the winners were paid $1,000 per point for margin of victory -- the 76ers might have won, 129-85.
Listen, please, to Kevin Grevey, the Bullets' old man, a guard they kept at $350,000 per year. Listen as Grevey describes a problem with the Bullets' offense.
"Getting into our offense hasn't been easy. The first pass, the one starting the play, we haven't been able to do that consistently."
That's the pass from one guard to another, or from a guard to a forward, usually done with both men 30 feet out. It's more difficult than a football center snapping to the quarterback; but not much.
"Those simple things, we're having trouble with them," Grevey said.
At least four times, the Bullets threw away that first pass. Then the passer pointed a finger at a teammate, as if to say, "Excuse me, my distinguished colleague, but I'm blaming you 'cause Mr. Pollin is watching."
"Everyone has an excuse for it," Grevey said. "The bottom line is we're still in chaos with the offense. We've got so many new guys and so many young guys that it's going to take time. Right now, we don't have that offensive direction. Defensively, we're playing well, and we're rebounding okay. The offense will come."
"The important thing," said Greg Ballard, "is to learn the habits of everybody in game-type situations. We aren't making these mistakes in practice, but it's a lot different in games. We're a long way from getting to where we should be."
The distance is so great that Coach Gene Shue won't measure it.
"One day, everybody will wake up and we'll be playing as well as we can play," Shue said.
How well is that?
"I can't predict that," Shue said, "because a lot of things have to happen."
The first thing that must happen if the Bullets have a snowball's chance of winning 40 games is the hiring of some real players. They're paying Spencer Haywood $200,000, but his contract, like every Bullet deal, is not guaranteed. If he doesn't pan out quickly, he'll be on the next boat back to Europe, along with five or six other Bullets.
And by January, the Bullets will have a new lineup of mystery guests.