Anyone watching Cliff Robinson go through his paces yesterday at Bowie State College would have gotten the impression the 6-foot-9 forward was practicing the posture of local hero. A jump shot scored after walking through a play was punctuated by a fist slashing through the air. An emphatic slam dunk brought his hands together in silent applause.
Certainly, the Washington Bullets hope Robinson's vision will be fulfilled tonight against the Boston Celtics at Capital Centre.
For Robinson's visions to come true, he first has to be able to see. An inflammation of his right iris knocked him out of the Bullets' last two games, a split with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Robinson practiced yesterday with the help of a pair of goggles, a la Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or James Worthy.
The only time Robinson removed the eyewear was to insert medication. "I take these drops every hour, then I've got another set that I take every two," he said. "I've got another for every four and another that I take at night before I go to bed."
Between dosages, Robinson should be able to play against the Celtics, a thought that brings the trace of a smile to Coach Gene Shue's face. It doesn't linger long.
Shue has other problems, one stemming from the same practice. Top draftee Kenny Green sprained his left ankle. Team physician Carl MacCartee declared the 6-foot-7 reserve out of tonight's game and will reexamine Green on Monday.
Shue also pondered how to get his team playing aggressively from the outset of a game. In Thursday night's 114-107 loss to Cleveland, and in their victories over the Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks, the Bullets began slowly. Even center Jeff Ruland, normally the most intense of the Washington players, was backing off from the fray.
"I thought I was ready coming in," he said. "Then I picked up a couple of cheap fouls and it took me right out of the game. I was playing tentatively from then on."
"We don't look very smooth yet," said Shue. "It's really very tricky trying to accomplish that. We're still trying to get everyone together. There are things that we want to do with Cliff and Dan (Roundfield) but they haven't been in together for us to try them."
The Celtics could find themselves in a similar situation. Larry Bird, a two-time most valuable player, has been bothered with back pains, leading to rumors that not only could his season be curtailed, but his career as well. This after summer rumors of advanced arthritis in his right elbow.