If the Bullets are going to make a run at the playoffs, they are going to have to come up with an outside shooting threat who can help them in close games.
In last-second losses to Boston and Chicago in their last two games, the Bullets had no one to draw the defense away from the basket and therefore could not get the ball inside to their most dependable scorers.
"We've got a good outside scorer, if he'd start doing it," Bob Ferry, the general manager, said when asked if a shooting guard was at the top of his shopping list. "Kevin Grevey's a good shooter, but he's in a slump right now."
This has been a very difficult season for Grevey, who didn't re-sign with the Bullets until three days after the season started. First, he broke a finger on his shooting hand, then bruised an elbow, and finally pulled a groin muscle.
The six-year veteran has missed five games and averaged only 28 minutes in the 19 he's played. He's made only 39 percent of his shots while averaging 10.4 points.
"Kevin's scoring is down seven points from last year and that's made a big difference," Ferry said. "The way Frank Johnson has been playing, we don't need another shooting guard, if Kevin starts playing like he did last season."
Grevey is mystified about his erratic play, although he points out that injuries keep setting him back just when he starts to get into a groove.
"I've been in shooting slumps before and I always have shot my way out of them," he said on the flight home following a 92-90 loss Tuesday night in Chicago.
Johnson, the team's best one-on-one player, made the trip, but decided not to play after testing his sprained ankle. He was sorely missed in the closing minutes when John Lucas wound up talking the last two shots and dribbling the ball off his foot attempting a third.
"We sure could have used Frank," Coach Gene Shue said. "He's the guy we've been using in that type of situtation. He has excellent range and also is good going to the basket."
The first-round draft choice from Wake Forest made a three-pointer against Boston to bring the Bullets within a point Friday night at Capital Centre, but then missed a base-line jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game.
Johnson's playing time has been limited because Shue can't afford to play both Lucas and Johnson together for very long for defensive reasons. Johnson has made 44 percent of his shots and is averaging 9.8 points per game.
"I should be ready for Indiana," Johnson said, referring to the Christmas Night special with the Pacers at Capital Centre (WTOP-1500 at 8:05) "My ankle's not swollen, but it's still tender and I can't move laterally very well."
Johnson's last game was one of his best. The 6-foot-1 rookie scored 21 points in 26 minutes against the Celtics. Two nights earlier, he had 22 points in 28 minutes at Cleveland. In his last four games, he's averaged 15.5 points while making 28 of 49 shots (.571).
"Frank's the type of player who can face his man and get a shot off," Shue says. "He doesn't need a pick and can get a shot when the play breaks down. That's what you need at the end of games when the defense collapses on our big men."
The Bullets' best outside shooter lately has been a forward. Greg Ballard has been superb, leading the scoring in seven of the last 10 games. At Chicago, he made 14 of 22 shots to lead all scorers with 32 points.
"Greg's been great, but we've got to get more balance," Shue said. "At the end of the last two games, the defenses have shut him off and we've had to look elsewhere."