The Washington Bullets cleared the way for the reactivation of center Jeff Ruland by releasing guard Don Collins yesterday. Ruland, who has played one game in two months, is eligible to return for Tuesday night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Capital Centre.
In another development, guard Frank Johnson, who has been on the injured list since Feb. 12 with a cracked fourth metatarsal bone in his left foot, said the cast on the foot will come off either today or Tuesday and he hopes to begin running almost immediately.
Collins, a past Bullet, was signed to a 10-day contract on March 13 when Ruland was placed on the injured list with a strained right shoulder.
Collins, a 6-foot-6 journeyman swing man, appeared in each of the four games Washington played in that 10-day span and provided a dimension of posting low in the lane, but he obviously could not replace Ruland, the team's only selectee to the 1985 NBA All-Star Game.
Following the 104-98 home-court loss to the Boston Celtics Saturday night, Ruland said, "We'll have to wait and see how it goes. I'd like to be able to play."
Coach Gene Shue certainly would like to see Ruland play, believing his big man's return would go a long way toward alleviating what Shue sees as the Bullets' major problem, a lack of scoring.
Even with the Bullets, in a major departure from their norm, outrebounding the Celtics, 61-41, they could not produce 100 points.
"Every time you look at a stat sheet after our games, you know what you'll see," Shue said. "We just aren't scoring a lot of points."
One reason, according to Shue, and the statistics, is that the team generally shoots fewer free throws than its opponents. On Saturday against the Celtics, for example, the Bullets were just four of 10 from the foul line, to Boston's 14 of 23.
Of those 23 Boston free throws, 21 were shot by the starting front line of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, a sign that the team was pounding the basketball inside with the Bullets fouling trying to stop them.
Ruland's return would give the Bullets that same element of power on the inside. With the opposition concerned with Ruland, it would also help the Bullets' overall offensive execution by giving outside shooters like Jeff Malone and Greg Ballard more room to get off their jumpers.
While Bird was down near his season low with 13 points against the Bullets, Malone got only 10, on five-of-13 shooting. It was Malone's first game under 20 points in the last eight and, worse, came while Celtics guard Danny Ainge was scoring 20.
Ruland and Johnson, one of the team's best jump shooters, are especially needed because the Bullets are into a brutal closing stretch of the regular season. In their remaining 12 games, beginning with the Central Division-leading Bucks, the only time Washington will play a team not currently in the chase for the playoffs is next Sunday at Indiana.