When the Bullets drafted Bryan Warrick they said it would make Frank Johnson a better basketball player. It's difficult to imagine Johnson being any better than he was tonight.
With the rookie Warrick doing much of the ball handling, Johnson was free to run. He scored a career-high 36 points while he and Warrick used their superior quickness to run circles around the Chicago Bulls as Washington evened its NBA season record at 1-1 with an uncharacteristic 143-125 victory at Chicago Stadium.
Johnson also had 11 assists and eight steals without committing any turnovers. Warrick had 14 assists and 11 points and only one turnover.
The Bullets' 143 points fell only three shy of the team record compiled against the Denver Nuggets Jan. 6, 1978.
Johnson made 18 of 19 free throws and nine of 16 field shots. His previous career high was 27 points.
Greg Ballard had 26 points, Jeff Ruland 24 and Spencer Haywood 20 to go along with Johnson's 36 for a four-man output of 106.
"We didn't have anything last night," Coach Gene Shue said, referring to Friday's 93-90 opening-game loss to the Pacers in Indianapolis, "but we came ready to play tonight. We were very sharp with the ball. We were able to get good movement from both our guards and we got the shots we wanted.
"Frank played his best game ever. In addition to his scoring he came up with a lot of loose balls and he played great defense."
Said Johnson: "We all knew we didn't play well at Indiana. We just didn't have the intensity. I personally wanted to create situations tonight. I was looking to score."
The Bulls, under new Coach Paul Westhead, are trying to change their image and style from a slow-down, set-up team to a fast-breaking one. Tonight the swift pace benefited the usually stodgy Bullets and dropped the Bulls to 0-2.
"Chicago throws a lot of traps and presses at you to get the tempo up," said Ballard. "But we broke them down and then on offense we got a lot of steals because our guards were in the passing lanes and they were active."
The Bullets made 20 steals.
"It seemed our players really enjoyed this type of game," Shue said, "but I'd much rather we slow the ball down and set up. I always tell our players they aren't a fast-breaking team. We can't play this style every night. We were forced into it this time. It's fun and entertaining, but we still feel our best chance to win, consistently, is to slow it down. We want teams to play our tempo."
The Bullets took charge in the second period when Warrick tied the Chicago Stadium assist record for a quarter with nine and Ruland scored 12 points. That helped Washington to a 67-53 halftime lead.
Johnson scored 15 points and had three assists and two steals in the third quarter as the Bullets never let the Bulls back in the game.
Reggie Theus was the high scorer for Chicago with 30 points and Orlando Woolridge scored 28.
Bulls rookie Quintin Dailey had 23 points -- and drew about 50 pickets lined up outside the arena.
A Chicago women's organization, "The Take Back The Night Coalition," picketed and handed out leaflets criticizing Dailey and the Bulls for signing him.
Dailey, from Baltimore's Cardinal Gibbons High School and the University of San Francisco, has caused an uproar since the Bulls drafted him in June. He was accused of sexually assaulting a USF coed last season, and after plea bargaining, was given three years probation for pleading guilty of aggravated assault.
At a Chicago press conference after the draft, Dailey said he had no remorse and had pleaded guilty only so the incident would not interfere with his basketball career.
The National Organization for Women held a demonstation at the Bulls office earlier today.
A spokeswoman for the picketers tonight said they were accusing the Bulls of "condoning sexual attack against women" by having Dailey on the team.
Inside, however, the Chicago fans greeted Dailey with cheers. They saved the boos for the whole team as the game got out of hand.