The Bullets, last in the NBA in scoring, probably will have even more trouble producing points after losing Kevin Grevey for at least a week with a pulled left thigh muscle.
Coach Gene Shue learned of the severe setback at practice yesterday and admitted he wasn't sure who would replace Grevey at guard tonight in Atlanta (WTOP-1500, 8:05).
"This is really going to hurt us," Shue said. "Kevin was starting to shoot well again and right now we just don't have anybody to put back there."
During a two-hour workout at Bowie State College, Shue experimented with John Lucas and Frank Johnson together in the back court, but said later he wasn't satisfied with that combination.
"They're not ready to work together," he said of the two ball-handlers. Lucas, obviously, needs the ball to be effective and Johnson is more comfortable handling the ball, as he did in college.
Although Brad Holland or Don Collins might start in Grevey's spot, there are sure to be times in Atlanta when Lucas and Johnson are in the game together.
Johnson played all but three minutes in the second half of Tuesday night's 90-84 loss to Boston and finished with 10 points and seven assists and committed only two turnovers.
"Frank is going to be fine," Shue said. "I thought he played quite well, but sometimes he still doesn't know when to shoot and when to pass. We're telling him so much, though, that's he's bound to be confused at times."
"I'm starting to get my confidence and starting to feel more comfortable," the rookie said. "My biggest problem is not being patient with myself. Sometimes I try to do things on my own instead of just staying in the flow of the game."
The 6-foot-2, first-round draft choice from Wake Forest made 52 percent of his shots last season. In five games with the Bullets, he's made only 14 of 34 (41 percent) and five of 11 free throws.
Shue said there have been no talks with other teams concerning a replacement for Grevey, who will be on crutches until Monday when he has his next examination.
"Kevin will out for at least a week, but, right now, there's nobody out there who could help us," Shue said. "We can't keep changing all the time. We've got to stay together and get some stability."
Grevey said he pulled the muscle, which is near the hip, midway through the second quarter, but was shooting so well he kept playing. He made five shots in a row and had 12 points at halftime, when the Bullets held a 51-42 lead.
"Once the doctor looked at it at halftime, he told me not to play anymore," Grevey said. "Now I can't even raise my leg when I'm sitting down. This is sure a bad time for this to happen because we're having so much trouble scoring as it is."
The Bullets have managed only 90, 86 and 84 points their last three games and are averaging only 91.5. With the exception of Rick Mahorn around the basket and Greg Ballard, the team doesn't have a scoring threat.
In the last six minutes against Boston, when the Bullets were outscored, 11-3, Ballard was the only player actively looking for a shot.
After playing the Hawks, the Bullets return home to meet Chicago Saturday night and Milwaukee Tuesday night . . . Atlanta is one of the surprises of the early season, winning three of five with victories over Philadelphia and Milwaukee, despite being racked by injuries. High scoring John Drew has been benched by new Coach Kevin Loughery, with Rudy Macklin, a third-round draft choice from LSU, starting at forward opposite Dan Rounfield. Rory Sparrow, dropped by New Jersey, is starting at guard, with veteran reserve James McElroy.