Kenny Green, the Washington Bullets' first-round draft choice hailed as potentially one of the best one-on-one small forwards since Bobby Dandridge when selected in last June's NBA draft, has started working out at the off-guard position.
Coach Gene Shue made the decision to switch Green shortly before last week's season opener against the Atlanta Hawks in an effort to find some playing time for the former Wake Forest star. It is unlikely, however, that Green will play in the back court when the Bullets meet the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at 7:30 at the Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio.
"There just isn't any time for Kenny at the three (small forward) spot. There are too many other people playing there," he said. "We feel he has the natural instincts to do it, so right now he'll work out at guard."
Green, who saw limited playing time during the preseason, was the only Bullet not to play in Friday's 100-91 victory over Atlanta. The Bullets started Charles Jones and Cliff Robinson at forward, then substituted at the position with Dan Roundfield, Tom McMillen and Darren Daye. Shue said the prospects of Green cracking that rotation anytime soon were slim.
"Where do you fit him in?" he asked. "We've got Gus Williams with Jeff Malone as starters, Dudley Bradley for defense and Perry Moss on the point. If we need more offense, we can put Kenny there and run post-up plays for him. That could work great for a short period. We could catch teams with shorter players in the game and exploit that."
Green seemed stunned by his lack of playing time against the Hawks, and his potential switch in positions hasn't helped clear his head.
"Am I a two (guard) or a three (forward)? I don't know, I'm just trying to get my game together," said Green shortly before the Bullets practiced yesterday at Bowie State. "We won Friday night, that's the important thing. Now I have to do whatever it takes for me to get some playing time."
That wasn't the scenario painted at Capital Centre last June when Washington selected Green with the 12th overall pick in the draft. Both Shue and General Manager Bob Ferry were clearly enamored of Green and gave the impression that getting playing time would be the least of his problems.
"Well, what are you going to say on draft day, 'We're drafting this guy but he's not going to play very much,' " said Ferry. "It's not as if Kenny has to play tonight at a small forward or at a big guard. He has the time to learn both spots. And if he didn't show that he has the talent, we wouldn't be willing to improvise like this.
"It's a real healthy situation for a team to be in, but it's not one where you're gonna keep everyone happy and you know that going into it. The strong players survive it and get stronger; the weak ones have problems. They don't understand that it's a matter of adding minutes.
"I think they sometimes get a distorted picture of things. Manute (Bol, the team's second-round draft choice) was playing 24 minutes in the preseason but we knew that wouldn't happen when the regular season started," Ferry said. "The thing is to get him as many minutes as we can so he can be ready when we need him. The same applies to Kenny Green."
Shue didn't appear overly concerned about Green's uncertainty with his role. "We've sat and talked about it and Kenny's learning what he has to do," he said. "When a player, veteran or rookie, comes in, I try to set the conditions for winning -- what has to be done for the team to win.
"Everyone has to play defense, everyone has to play hard all the time. After that, you get into where your individual talents can help the team achieve that."
Ironically, one of the regular forwards, Robinson, may not be able to face his former teammates tonight.
Robinson, who led the Bullets with 22 points against Atlanta, has an inflammation of the iris in his right eye. According to team trainer John Lally, there was no specific cause for the injury, such as being poked in the eye. Robinson, who was scheduled to travel to Cleveland with the team last night, is listed as questionable for the game.