The Washington Bullets quickly accepted the fact that they would not be in the playoffs for only the third time in the last 16 years. And they immediately began speculating about the future.
"I expect us to make some blockbuster trades," said point guard Frank Johnson. "We aren't going to sit back and do nothing, I know that. I might even be going somewhere else, I don't know.
Almost certain to go is Kevin Grevey, a starting guard on the 1978 NBA championship team. Grevey no longer fits in with the Bullets' plans.
He has two more years on a guaranteed $350,000-a-year contract, which made it difficult to move him this season. "I know my future isn't with this team anymore," said Grevey. "But I still want to play. It's just time to move on and start over."
Coach Gene Shue said a decision on Grevey and other moves won't be made for several weeks.
The Bullets ended their season with a 118-105 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, but still won 13 of their last 17 games and were in the playoff race until Saturday.
They finished with a 42-40 record, compared to 43-38 a year ago. Jeff Ruland, the Bullets' leading scorer and rebounder, didn't play because of a dislocated wrist. He sustained the injury three weeks ago, and even though he was in considerable pain, played most of the games. With tonight's game rendered meaningless rookie Joe Kopicki started in his place and led the Bullets with 16 points.
All 12 Cavaliers scored, led by World B. Free's 20 points.
Shue said this is the time to make the moves and one player he is interested in is Free. One of the league's premier scorers, Free played for Shue in Philadelphia and San Diego. With the season over he is a free agent and after tonight's game said he wanted to play for the Bullets. "I think it's a good possibility I'll play there," he said.
Said Shue: "We're going to sit down in a few days and talk about some people we're interested in acquiring. World is a quality player and one of the players we'll talk about."
The June 28 draft will help the team; the Bullets have four picks in the first two rounds, the 11th, 22d, 24th and 34th picks overall.
Considering when they pick, it is unlikely the Bullets will get the top scorer they seek, or the big man on a par with Rick Mahorn and Ruland.
They are high on 6-foot-10 Mike Gibson, a second-round draft choice last year from South Carolina-Spartansburg who played in Europe and the Continental League this season.
One of the Bullets' biggest problems this season was hesitation. Instead of signing Ricky Sobers earlier in the season, for instance, they waited for Grevey to get well. But even healthy, Grevey didn't help. When other injuries occurred, they covered them with weak patches--Chubby Cox and Billy Ray Bates--before finally obtaining Sobers.
" . . . Maybe if they had signed me earlier we'd still be in this thing," said Sobers. "Who knows? Next year is going to be different, though.