Any faint hopes area basketball fans had of seeing Moses Malone in a Washington Bullets' uniform next season were crushed yesterday by team owner Abe Pollin.
Pollin said unequivocally that even if he had $50 million, he would not pay anybody $2 million a year. He also complained about lack of support for his team during a luncheon at the Touchdown Club honoring General Manager Bob Ferry and Coach Gene Shue.
"The Washington Post said I was too cheap or couldn't afford to sign Moses Malone," Pollin told a gathering of about 200. "They might be right on both counts. But I don't think any player is worth that much money.
"If I had $50 million, I wouldn't pay anybody $2 million," Pollin continued, alluding to published reports that Malone will ask $2.5 million a year when he becomes a free agent at the end of the National Basketball Association playoffs.
"If the owners let the salaries get out of hand like that, the league won't survive, and I'm on a committee to strengthen the league and see that it survives," he said.
Pollin praised Ferry and Shue for building the Bullets into a playoff team, jokingly saying, "I can't afford to give them a raise, so I tried to get them some awards." Then he talked about attendance in the playoffs.
"The biggest disappointment I had this season was when I came to the Capital Centre Saturday and Sunday afternoons for playoff games against the world champion Boston Celtics and seeing all those empty seats," he said, referring to crowds of 15,035 and 16,295 in the 19,035-seat arena. The Bullets had sold out their miniseries game against New Jersey the week before.
The Bullets improved their record from 39-43 to 43-39 this season, qualifying for the playoffs after a year's absence. They swept a two-game miniseries from New Jersey and played Boston three close games before being eliminated, 4-1, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Despite the addition of talented rookies Jeff Ruland and Frank Johnson and former Maryland star John Lucas, the Bullets' attendance slipped from 375,360 to 369,807, an average decline of 135 customers per game.