What did Bullets Coach Gene Shue think of forward Tom McMillen's ejection with 2:45 left in Wednesday night's 114-109 loss to the New Jersey Nets? According to Shue, an even better question might be, "What'll they think in Congress?"
The idea that McMillen, an experienced NBA player, would be dimissed from a game seems highly improbable. That it should happen after nearly coming to blows with New Jersey center Darryl Dawkins, who is 6 feet 11 and 265 pounds, seeme even stranger.
Of course, there are those who might argue that McMillen takes his life into his hands whenever he walks onto a basketball court. For example, although he's also listed at 6-11, McMillen gives up at least 40 pounds to Dawkins.
It's not unusual for the University of Maryland graduate to be placed at such a disadvantage whenever he's forced into the pivot. In order to try and negate it, McMillen relies on his sharp elbows and knees, trying to make receiving the basketball as uncomfortable as possible for the opposing center.
When that doesn't work, McMillen is capable of flopping his body about the court like some oversized Raggedy Andy doll. This tactic is successful not only in drawing foul calls from the officials but also frustrating the opposition.
Such was the case against the Nets Wednesday. Dawkins, who has set records because of his propensity to foul, had grown tired of playing cat-and-mouse with McMillen.
Moments earlier, the Bullets center had tripped over Dawkins and hit the floor just when Gus Williams had thrown a pass. Had the ball been received and the basket made, the Bullets would have drawn within four points of the Nets.
After the turnover, while jockeying for position at the other end of the floor, Dawkins literally picked up McMillen and moved him out of the way. McMillen's retaliation, an elbow to the ribs, was detected by referee Hue Hollins, who whistled McMillen for his sixth personal.
The call sent McMillen off on a mini-tirade and two technical fouls were quickly called. McMillen left the court a short time later muttering about the "worst officiating job I've seen in 10 years."
Although he pleaded "no comment" after the game, it was obvious that the future politician wasn't extremely interested in maintaining a large measure of decorum. "I've never, you know . . . had problems like that," McMillen said. "There's something fundamentally wrong when things like that are allowed to happen.
"I'm getting tired of elbows in my face and being pulled down and grabbed and punched without any acknowledgement of it going on. This is my 10th year in the league and I've been able to take a lot of the blows, but at some point it gets to be too much. I'm going to write a letter to the commissioner to state my case."
If that was spoken like a future congressman, it can be imagined what Dawkins, a onetime inhabitant of the imaginary planet Lovetron, had to say. Regarding the charge that he had picked McMillen up and thrown him aside, the center said, "Given my rep, you know dammed well that if I had done that I never would have gotten away with it.
"It was pretty funny, though, when he started to come after me. I don't think his punches could have cracked eggs. He's not the man he once was, but I guess that happens to all of us if you live long enough."
The incident only served to emphasize the differences between the Bullets and the other NBA teams when Washington is without Jeff Ruland, now on injured reserve. With Rick Mahorn in foul trouble Wednesday, that made it incumbent on McMillen to try and defense Dawkins inside, a problem even for Moses Malone.
New Jersey's Buck Williams, who had 22 rebounds in the game, said that with Ruland he feels the Bullets are probably a stronger team than the Nets, but "when he's not there, there's no way that Mahorn can guard all of us inside."
The loss also kept going two miserable streaks for Washington. The team hasn't won at the Meadowlands since March 1983, losing six times since. Also, the Bullets haven't won consecutive games since Jan. 24 and 26, when they beat Dallas and Phoenix.
Washington will play before a sellout crowd tonight at Capital Centre against Ralph Sampson and the Rockets, a team the Bullets beat, 123-115, Feb. 23 in Houston. McMillen, who has a sprained right wrist, and forward Greg Ballard, strained lower back, are expected to play.
Sampson's teammate on the Rockets' front line, rookie Akeem Olajuwon, is another player who has been frustrated by McMillen. Olajuwon, a prime candidate for rookie of the year, has averaged more than 20 points a game and ranks third in the league in rebounds (12.1) and fifth in blocked shots (2.34).
Sampson, the most valuable player in this season's All-Star Game, has averaged almost 22 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks a game.
Helped by second-year forward Rodney McCray, the youngish Rockets have rebounded from the worst record in the league last season to second place in the NBA's Midwest Division, three games behind the Denver Nuggets.
The Rockets received a lift when guard John Lucas, another product of the University of Maryland who was suspended from the team earlier in the season for drug abuse, was reinstated late last month.
During Lucas' absence, Lionel Hollins, picked up from the Detroit Pistons during the offseason, performed admirably, giving the team more depth in a back court that includes Mitchell Wiggins and Lewis Lloyd.