Ten days ago, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Washington Bullets by 30 points. It was the Bullets' fifth straight loss.
"What we need most is Kevin Grevey," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue.
Well, Grevey, who has not played this season because of a pulled abdominal muscle, is ready to be activated but, ironically, it's at a time when the Bullets need him least.
They haven't lost a game since that 122-92 loss at the Forum, having won four in a row--over San Diego, Phoenix and Indiana on the road and over Portland 107-90, at Capital Centre Saturday night.
Shue said two weeks ago that when Grevey was ready, he would almost certainly replace either Don Collins or Billy Ray Bates on the roster.
Bates started for three games and was ineffective. In his last five games, he shot only 24 percent (eight for 33). Said Shue, "If Billy doesn't score, he's of no use to us."
Collins, on the other hand, who was elevated to a starter three games ago, has been a major reason for the Bullets' recent success.
The 6-foot-6 swing man had his most productive game of the season against Portland with 29 points, seven rebounds (six offensive), five steals, three assists and a blocked shot.
His defense has been good, also, and he has controlled his temper, something he hasn't always been able to do.
"I know I'm still going to make some mistakes, but as long as I play hard and do the best I can, things will work out," said Collins, who has scored in double figures the past six games.
What Shue has done recently is to use Collins as the starter and, when the team has needed defensive help, has gone with the much-more-physical Carlos Terry. Terry played the entire fourth qurter in the 87-85 victory over Indiana, making the final 12 minutes painful for the Pacers' Billy Knight.
And so, it seems almost certain Grevey will replace Bates, unless something unusual develops within the next few days.
The Bullets won't say what they plan to do, "because we aren't sure yet," said Shue.
The Bullets, with three games this week -- at Capital Centre Wednesday against New Jersey and Friday against New York, and at Dallas Saturday -- said last week that they hoped to activate Grevey for Wednesday's game.
Center Rick Mahorn, who hasn't been scoring well, had a season-high 20 points against the Trail Blazers and he and Jeff Ruland each had 13 rebounds. Mahorn has averaged 12.3 rebounds in the winning streak and has been in double figures rebounding every game of the string.
Frank Johnson has also come out of a slump. He scored 30 points and had 14 assists in Phoenix and had the game-winning jump shot as time ran out at Indiana.
He had 16 points Saturday in one of the strangest games the Bullets have played this year. Weary from 10 days on the road, Washington fell behind by 16 points in the first quarter and was still down by 15 at halftime.
But in the second half, the Bullets outscored Portland, 66-34.
"That's the biggest turnaround I've seen in a long time," said Shue. "We're playing very well right now, but we have to keep it up. We have to keep playing hard every game."
The Bullets, 7-8, were 4-11 after 15 games last season . . . Joe Cooper, signed to a Bullets contract after Dave Batton sprained his ankle, has impressed the coaches and they say they will have a difficult decision or two to make when Batton and Spencer Haywood are ready to come off the injured list, which is expected to be soon. Cooper has played in four games for a total of 41 minutes and has made five of nine shots and grabbed 12 rebounds.