The Washington Bullets, who have been looking for a hot hand all season, may have found one Tuesday night in an old hand named Kevin Grevey.
Grevey made his most significant contribution to the Bullets this season when he scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, including two of three three-point shots in the team's 108-102 victory in Chicago.
Not long ago, the Bullets feared Grevey might not be a factor for them this season. He began the season on the injured list because of a torn abdominal muscle incurred last season and wasn't activated until Dec. 1.
Meanwhile, shooting guard was a trouble spot for the Bullets much of the year. Don Collins opened the season as the starter, but was replaced by rookie Bryan Warrick, who in turn was replaced by free agent Billy Ray Bates.
Coach Gene Shue finally went back to Collins 10 games ago and he has played well since. He has scored in double figures in 13 of the last 14 games and Shue said he is pleased with Collins' play.
Grevey has been used as Collins' backup, and it was only because Collins got into foul trouble Tuesday that Grevey played 29 minutes, his longest stint of the season. He scored a season-high 21 points; in addition to his three-pointers, Grevey made two 20-foot jump shots, giving the Bullets the outside scoring they've been seeking.
Shue said Grevey plays better as a starter, but he has no plans of making a lineup change. "Don has been playing so great that I'm not about to make a change," said Shue. "Don earned the spot and hasn't done anything to lose it."
That's fine with Grevey, who no longer feels pain from the injury but thinks his game is not at the stage it was before the muscle tear.
"I have to work my way back gradually," he said, "I had a good game against the Bulls, but I wasn't very effective the two games before that one. When I've put together four or five games like the Chicago game, then I'll feel ready. I still have to prove to the coaches and my teammates that I can play like that all the time."
Grevey and Collins are as dissimilar as two men playing the same position can be. Collins is a runner, an open-court specialist who thrives on beating his man down the floor and scoring off the fast break.
Grevey doesn't have Collins' speed, but he is an outstanding outside shooter who works best within a set offense. There is a place for both with the Bullets.
Grevey is especially valuable now because point guard Frank Johnson is in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career (26 of 82, 32 percent in the last seven games). Because Collins isn't an outside shooter, the opposition can pack its defense and dare the Bullets' guards to shoot. That's the plan Chicago had Tuesday night and Grevey helped thwart it.
Since coming off the injured list, Grevey has been shooting better than ever. He is averaging 7.4 points and shooting 49 percent while averaging 18 minutes a game in the seven games he has played. Over his seven-year career, Grevey is only a 44 percent shooter and has never shot better than 45 percent in a season.
Grevey is also the Bullets' best three-point shooter, having made four of seven this year. The rest of the team is five for 27 on three-pointers.
"I don't feel any pressure or anything," said Grevey, "and I'm very relaxed when I go out there. When the shot is there, I'm going to take it. It's that simple."
The Bullets will play at Detroit Friday and return to Capital Centre Saturday to face the Philadelphia 76ers. As of yesterday afternoon, only 500 tickets remained for that game.