Gary Witts is living proof that there is a place in the NBA for a 6-foot-7 player who isn't a great shooter, a great rebounder, a great passer, a great anything.
However, he is a solid all-around player who has earned a place on the Bullets' team and now figures prominently in the plans of Coach Gene Shue.
Witts, a fifth-round draft choice from Holy Cross, endeared himself to Bullet fans Friday night at Capital Centre against the defending world champion Boston Celtics. Witts fouled out of the loss, but not until he had played a career-high 32 minutes and scored 13 points. He also had seven rebounds, four offensive.
Witts also did the little things that the Bullets haven't been getting from some of their regulars. When Witts fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, he left to a standing ovation from the 11,413 in attendance.
"I won't hesitate to use him at any time now," Shue said. "He's one of those blending players who helps the team, no matter who he's on the floor with."
Witts impressed the Bullets in the summer league, but still went to camp without much chance to make the team. Somebody forgot to tell him that, however.
"He was just always there," said Shue. "During training camp we'd talk about Mark Davis and Percy Davis and Ed Odom and then we'd always say, 'and don't forget about Gary Witts.' "
When Carlos Terry reinjured his knee, Witts made the team as the 12th man. It was assumed by most Bullet followers that once Terry was activated Witts would be released. That isn't necessarily the case now, even though it is uncertain when Terry will be ready to play.
"The reason we kept Witts was his basketball instinct. That was the bottom line. He's a guy who knows how to play basketball," Shue said. "He does all of the things you want players to do, but don't want to have to tell them about. He comes up with loose balls, gets his hands in there on defense and plays aggressively and tough."
Witts knows his limitations and also the value of the things he can do.
"I have to be ready at all times," he said. "I can't have periods when I go in and don't do much. I just try to do as much as I can. There's more to the game than just shooting, you know."
Witts had two very impressive plays in the 99-98 loss to the Celtics Friday.
At the end of the third period, John Lucas threw an off-balance jumper and everyone assumed the clock would run out with the shot. Everyone, that is, except Witts. He followed the ball to the basket and when it missed, grabbed it and laid it back in at the buzzer.
Earlier in the period, Witts left his man to slap the ball away from Cedric Maxwell. That started a two-on-one fast break with Witts and Lucas against Boston's Robert Parish. Lucas missed a layup, but Witts beat Parish to the ball and was fouled as he went back up with it. He made two free throws to give the Bullets the lead for the first time.
The Bullets eventually led by as many as 12 points early in the fourth period. But Parish scored 14 points in the last quarter, making seven of seven from the field on his way to a season-high 32 points. The Celtics beat the Bullets for the fourth straight time this season and the eighth straight time at Capital Centre.
"The season still has a long way to go," said Witts. "We'll get better."