Coach Gene Shue had a talk with the Bullets after they lost their fifth straight game last Sunday. His message was simple: everyone would get a chance and the players who produced would play.
"That's the way I'm going to do it," said Shue, whose team is 24-24 after come-from-behind victories over San Antonio Tuesday and Dallas Wednesday. "I'm going with the guys who are playing well and they all know it."
"Gene told us point blank that he was going to play the guys who do the job," said guard John Lucas. "You can't be any fairer than that."
Lucas, in particular, profited from the system in Dallas Wednesday night. In the past Shue has usually replaced Lucas with rookie Frank Johnson when the game was at stake. That's what happened in San Antonio Tuesday night. Johnson scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including seven of the Bullets' last nine as they won, 112-110, after overcoming a 20-point deficit.
Lucas played only 20 minutes that game. Against the Mavericks, he started slowly and played only seven minutes in the first half. Johnson, in a substitute role, scored 10 points in the second quarter.
Shue went back to Lucas to start the second half, and Lucas responded with 20 points and nine assists after intermission. Shue left him in the entire second half as the Bullets won, 119-102, after trailing by as many as 12 points.
While Lucas and Johnson have taken turns sharing the spotlight, Jeff Ruland and Gary Witts have been constants. Ruland scored the winning basket against San Antonio on a short hook shot with two seconds left and came back against Dallas with a career-high 27 points. He also had 11 rebounds and four assists.
Witts, a rookie from Holy Cross, played 15 minutes against the Spurs and had eight points, five rebounds and three assists. The next night he played 33 minutes against the Mavericks in relief of Kevin Grevey, who injured his right (nonshooting) index finger.
Grevey had his finger X-rayed Wednesday and no fracture was found, but he does have ligament damage and it was very sore today. The Bullets are off until Saturday when they face the Houston Rockets at the Summit. Grevey should be available for that game.
Witts scored seven points and had four rebounds, three assist and a steal and only one turnover against Dallas. "We're going to use Gary a lot from here on out," said Shue. "He just always seems to do the right things at the right times."
Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff is just as impressed with Witts.
"He's fun to watch because he makes the good instinctive plays and he's smart. He never causes a problem. He just always does what he's supposed to do. You have to like him and you have to play him."
Witts is the Bullets' best defensive guard and even at 6-foot-7, is capable of playing either point guard or off guard. Even if Grevey can play Saturday, Witts will see considerable time.