At the 5:49 mark of the first period in the Washington Bullets' NBA season-opening 100-91 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, Coach Gene Shue replaced starting guard Gus Williams with rookie Perry Moss.
Although he was clapping his hands at the time, Shue obviously wasn't pleased. Atlanta's 5-foot-7 Spud Webb already had riddled the Bullets' defense for a pair of layups and had passed off for four assists.
How Williams, an 11-year veteran, responded to the quick hook was particularly noteworthy. There was no pouting, no stalking off the court. Instead, he pulled up one sock, gave Moss an encouraging handshake and trotted over to the bench.
He had a look on his face that almost seemed to say, "That's all right. Eventually the game will get back to me."
It did. With 2:55 remaining in the second quarter, Williams hit a spectacular layup, tossing the ball over his head, his back to the basket, while being fouled by Cliff Levingston. The subsequent free throw tied the game at 47 and was an important early point.
He also made his presence felt late in the game. With 50 seconds remaining and the Bullets trying to hold off a Hawks rally, Williams hit a 20-foot jump shot just before the 24-second clock expired to push the Washington lead to 98-91. A short time later, he scored the last of his 21 points on a pair of free throws, the final points in the game.
As Williams was releasing his last-minute jumper, New York Knicks assistant coach Richie Adubato -- seated at courtside, scouting for Tuesday night's game between his team and the Hawks -- already was calling the shot good. Why was that?
"Because he always makes those," Adubato said. "You could leave him alone the whole game, and maybe he'll be hitting 40 percent, but when it comes down to crunch time, he'll hit the shot, even if people are flying at him. Against us, they're usually three-pointers."
"Any athlete has to think like that, that he'll get his chance (in a game)," Williams said afterward. "If he has that confidence in himself, as well as knowing that his teammates have that same confidence, then he's a step ahead of the game."
Williams also was impressed by Webb's debut. "I thought Spud played very well," he said. "He gets everyone more involved with the game so that it's just not Dominique (Wilkins). He adds excitement to their club."
Webb's flash -- if not his size -- definitely overshadowed the regular-season debut of the Bullets' 7-foot-7 rookie, Manute Bol.
The center played just three minutes in the game, all late in the first quarter, did not score or block a shot, had no rebounds and picked up two quick fouls in a 44-second span.
Starting center Jeff Ruland played for 41 minutes. Late in the game, when he needed a rest, he was replaced by Tom McMillen, whose outside shot helped counteract the Atlanta traps and double teams. Bol, who had displayed little offense during the preseason, stayed on the bench for that reason.
First-round draft choice Kenny Green was the only member of the team that didn't get any playing time, and the rookie forward said he was a little surprised. Shue said there wasn't a particularly good time to place Green in the game.
The Bullets' shot distribution was almost ideal. Of the team's 78 field goal attempts, the starters took 62. Ruland and Jeff Malone each had 15, Williams and Cliff Robinson 14. Charles Jones, the team's designated worker, had four. In contrast, Wilkins took 29 shots for the Hawks, a figure that projects to a staggering 2,378 field goal attempts over an 82-game season.