Coach Gene Shue is getting tired of trying to explain what's wrong with the Washington Bullets, who, after Saturday night's 95-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls, have lost nine straight games.
"We can't score. We can't score. We can't score. That's what was wrong, what is wrong and what will be wrong with this team," said Shue, "and we as a team and as an organization have to think about that.
"We run a very intricate offense, maybe the most intricate in the league and it's designed to get certain shots. But you can't win in the NBA by just running plays. You have to have some one-on-one type players who can improvise to make things work. Teams are defensing our set offense and that's when you have to rely on the individual talent of the players and we just don't have much of that."
Even Cleveland with World B. Free, and Chicago with Reggie Theus, have players who can generate offense by themselves. The Bulls beat the Bullets Saturday by letting Theus go; he made off-balance 20-footers and baffled the Bullets with one-on-one moves to score 31 points.
"That's what we need, but don't have," said Shue, "a special type player who can get it on his own."
The simplest and perhaps most realistic assessment of what's wrong with the Bullets may be that they just aren't very good. At least that's what the record is starting to show.
The nine-game losing streak matches the second-longest in team history. The all-time team record is 13 straight in the 1966-67 season.
The Bullets' 17-23 record is the sixth-worst in the 23-team league.
During the losing streak, they have averaged only 94 points a game and shot 43 percent from the field.
Of the nine losses, five have come against the worst teams in the league, Cleveland twice, and Houston, Chicago and Golden State once each.
Now the schedule gets tough. The Bullets play the Celtics, who have the third-best record in the NBA, tonight at Capital Centre at 8:05 and again Wednesday in Boston.
Shue said he has done virtually everything possible to get the Bullets out of their slump. His most drastic move was to bench Kevin Grevey in favor of converted forward Charles Davis and move shooting guard Carlos Terry to small forward. "There isn't much else left to try," Shue said.
Shue said he and his assistant, Bernie Bickerstaff, even discussed just letting the team run and gun, but that notion was quickly dismissed.
"We aren't a fast-break team," said Shue, "and we can't be because we don't have the personnel. We have to be disciplined and execute plays. Running all the time just wouldn't work for us. Things would be even worse than they are now. We can lose any way we like. Instead of slowing it down and having at least a chance to win, we would try to run and lose by 20.
"The best way we have of getting out of this slump is to stay with what we're doing."
The Bullets were cruising, having won 11 of 14 games not too long ago, but then Don Collins and Frank Johnson went out with injuries and there has been no one to pick up the slack.
Since coming off the injured list four games ago with a 14-point effort against Houston, Johnson has made only 16 of 50 shots (32 percent) the last three games and Spencer Haywood, a major force last season, has had injury problems this year "and just hasn't been consistent, offensively," said Shue.
This is virtually the same team that surprised the NBA last season by winning 43 games and making it to the second round of the playoffs.
Shue said he warned of the pitfalls of staying pat, but the Bullets made no significant moves and now they apparently are paying for it.
"Last year we were like the Redskins are this year," said Shue. "The chemistry was there and everything worked . . . but every year is different. What we are doing now is probably more indicative of how good we really are than what we did last year," added Shue.
The Bullets don't have much to trade for the players they need and they don't appear inclined to go out and buy them.
"There have been a number of players we discussed bringing in that might have helped us, but the final decision usually came down to money," said Shue, "so we had to pass."