Clever fellows, these Chicago Bulls. After spending countless advertising dollars and an entire exhibition game touting rookie Michael Jordan as nothing less than the Second Coming, the team surprised the Washington Bullets in both teams' season opener with a pair of old standbys and went on to a 109-93 victory.
Jordan set the opening tone for the Bulls, then was content to play decoy for most of the evening as Orlando Woolridge scored 28 points, three more than third-year guard Quintin Dailey. Jordan, woozy after a second-quarter collision with the Bullets' Jeff Ruland, shot five for 16 from the field but scored 16 points, passed for seven assists and added six rebounds in a game-high 40 minutes of action. He also had a game-high four blocked shots.
"I didn't shoot well, but I thought I had a good overall game," said Jordan. "Where's the postgame party? At home in my bed. Just me, a bottle of aspirin and an icepack."
Of course, Ruland and teammate Rick Mahorn, who also nailed Jordan early with a pair of rough picks, have been known to cause an occasional headache. But it would have taken a total knockout to help the Bullets. After starting the game with a patchwork lineup, the Bullets' inability to generate an offense led to a rash of substitutions by Coach Gene Shue.
The moves worked in brief spurts, but for the most part the Bullets spent the evening playing Getting to Know You.
"This is a tough game and you have to have players who all know what you're trying to do," said Shue. "Tonight was like getting an entire group of guys together just before game time and saying to them, 'Okay, everyone play team defense and hit all your jump shots and be cohesive out there.' "
The Bullets failed on all three counts. Although Washington had four more shots from the field and six more free throw attempts than Chicago, the Bulls hit 54 percent from the field compared with just 40 percent for the Bullets, who also stumbled their way to 25 turnovers. But it was the first item that irked Ruland the most. "Not knowing each other is no excuse for not getting back on defense," he said.
In all probability, on the occasion of Jordan's debut it wouldn't have mattered if the Bullets had chosen to take root on the defensive end of the court. Although the crowd of 13,913 was far from a sellout, it still outnumbered the biggest gathering at the Stadium last season by nearly a thousand people.
It took more than 4 1/2 minutes before they got what they came to see. Taking the ball out on the right side of the court, Jordan eluded Dudley Bradley with a fancy spin move off the dribble then sank a 12-foot bank shot for his first professional basket. Although the game wasn't stopped to present Jordan with the ball, Shue did call a timeout to regroup the Bullets.
However, nothing really worked for Washington until late in the third quarter. After trailing by 57-45 at the half and by as many as 17 soon after the intermission, Williams scored eight points and led a 12-2 Bullets run that cut their deficit to 78-74 at the end of the period.
Then Dailey, who attended high school at Baltimore's Cardinal Gibbons, took over, scoring 10 of the Bulls' next 12 points to put Chicago back up by 12 and the game out of reach.
"Q is our best outside shooter and I think that if teams concentrate on Michael, Dailey will really hurt you," said Bulls Coach Kevin Loughery. "Most teams don't have two strong defenders at guard so when they double team, Q will definitely benefit."
Dailey, who balked last season at his sixth man role, will now have to be content to bask in the shadow of Jordan. As crowds of reporters and well wishers hovered around the rookie's locker room cubicle, Dailey dressed quickly, undisturbed, in the next space.
"There's no problem with me being a sixth man or all the attention Michael's getting," said Dailey. "I'll just let him go out on the court and out-quick 'em and I'll just sit back and shoot."
Right now, the Bullets don't have that same luxury, which given their performance tonight, might be a blessing of sorts. "They had us down twice and we came back pretty strong," said Williams. "We can take something positive from that and come up with a better effort next game."
"That's the thing about the NBA," added Ruland. "There's always a next game to come back to. I know I'm already psyched up for tomorrow night in Indy."