Surely there must be more to coaching than this. Addressing the problems in the midst of a recent streak in which the Washington Bullets lost six of nine games, Coach Gene Shue placed much of the blame on lack of rebounding.
More specifically, he said, his guards had not contributed in that span, in which the Bullets had been outrebounded each game. "They (the guards) have to become more aware of helping out," Shue said.
Apparently, the message got through, because back court rebounding was a key in the team's weekend victories over Atlanta and New York. Against the Hawks, Gus Williams had a season-high six rebounds, half the back court's total. Against the Knicks Saturday in New York, the Bullets' three-man rotation of Williams, Jeff Malone and Dudley Bradley accounted for 14 of Washington's 45 rebounds in a 116-108 victory.
This, of course, is in addition to the good shooting that the threesome has contributed in the Bullets' modest three-game winning streak. In the first game, a 114-89 rout of Indiana Wednesday, it scored 64 points. Against Atlanta, it again scored 64 on 21-of-32 shooting. On Saturday, the numbers were 19 of 31 from the field and 50 points.
Each of the players can call one game in last week's streak his own.
Against the Pacers, there was Bradley, tying his career high with 22 points, including three three-point shots. Williams had four three-pointers and 37 points against the Hawks. Malone, the team's steadiest player since being inserted into the starting lineup Dec. 15, killed a late fourth-quarter rally by New York Saturday with three clutch, long-range baskets.
The back court's increased productivity comes when the Bullets' front court could use a pick-me-up. After carrying the team in its 12-wins-in-14-games early season streak, power forward Cliff Robinson has struggled lately. Bothered by tendinitis in his right knee, he played just nine minutes against Indiana. After an eight-rebound, 17-point performance against the Hawks, Robinson shot just two of 13 against the Knicks, a game in which Greg Ballard, the other starter at forward, scored one point.
Of course, the balance and overall give-and-take are how things should work on a championship caliber club, which is a level the Bullets might be regaining after their recent slump. As in the early season, each of last week's games was marked by inspired, almost furious play at the start of the second half that enabled the Bullets to take control.
Now, faced with a relatively light week (games Thursday in Cleveland and against Detroit at Capital Centre Saturday), Shue hopes his team can refine the improved play.
"I haven't said it for a while but this team is still learning how to play with each other," he said.
"But to become a really good team, we still have to make more improvements. There are quite a few things to refine and the players have to agree that we can do them."