After what Coach Gene Shue termed "an excellent week of practice," the Bullets will open a six-game exhibition season tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers in Greensboro, N.C.
Seven new players, including guard Gus Williams and forward Cliff Robinson, have adjusted quickly to the system, Shue said yesterday. "We've really progressed as far as our defense is concerned," Shue said, "and most of our offense is in. I said I wanted solid defense and most of the offense in by the end of the first week, and we've accomplished both.
"We've had hard, spirited workouts. The guys seem to be together. The new players have been working very hard and have been cooperative. It's been a very good first week. We're ready to play an exhibition game. It's a good early camp type test to see how we're doing."
Shue said he might platoon his three five-man practice squads for the first three quarters tonight. He said he probably would start Rick Mahorn at center, Jeff Ruland and Darren Daye at forward, Frank Johnson and Gus Williams at guard.
"If I start Frank and Gus, I want to see how Frank matches up with (Andrew) Toney," he said. "For sure, Ruland will start. Greg Ballard isn't here. Basically, I'm starting most of the players who started last year, with the exception of Gus."
That five-man grouping was one of three teams that took turns scrimmaging against each other yesterday morning. Another team had Tom McMillen at center, Robinson and Charlie Davis at forward, Tom Sewell and Jeff Malone at guard. The other team was made up of Tom Piotrowski at center, Joe Kopicki and Guy Williams at forward, and Dudley Bradley and Delonte Taylor at guard.
"It would be my guess there'll only be a couple of players who play more minutes than the others," Shue said. "I want to get each group 12 minutes of work. Then I'll see who plays in the fourth quarter."
Gus Williams and Robinson, the two heralded newcomers obtained in draft-day trades, appear to be progressing well in the new system.
Of Williams' first week, Shue said, "He's done real well. He's just what I thought he would be: he's a very good open-court player, he knows how to run the team and he's very sharp and knows what he's doing."
Said Williams, "It's good just to play in a game-like situation . . . I know we have good talent. Now, we have to blend it together for one purpose -- to win. Each game, we need to show an improvement. The plays are coming easier, but it's still not second nature. When plays are called, I have to think, instead of react."
Robinson, who is expected to play some small forward, has worked mainly as a power forward during the first week.
"We're getting a lot of things accomplished," he said. "I'm learning a lot about the plays and the basic defense. I feel real good about what's happened so far. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's productive work."
Even though his team will run, Shue stresses defense. It is the first thing the Bullets work on each day. As Malone said, "We put in a lot of hard work defensively. That's what will take us through the season."
Shue emphasized again yesterday the importance of shot selection on the fast break. He said he wants easy shots, or else wants the offense to work the ball to the inside players.
"For our team, the goal is to run the fast break and get some good baskets," Shue said. "It doesn't make sense to run up and down (the floor) and take (long) jump shots, because we can take those any time.
"You kind of expect that because you have combinations out there who don't know each other. And you've got guys who will try to impress the coaches by scoring. But that only hurts them. As you get set lineups, you'll see less and less of that. If you want to win, that's what you've got to do."
Shue was delighted that the week passed without an injury serious enough for a player to miss even one practice session . . . Regardless of the outcome of tonight's game, Shue has decided to give his team the day off Saturday. The Bullets will then have six more two-a-day workouts before the next exhibition game.