For the second time in less than a year, Washington Bullets guard Frank Johnson has a fractured metatarsal bone in his left foot. The latest injury apparently occurred in the final seconds of the team's 98-93 victory Saturday night against the New Jersey Nets.
According to a team spokesman, Johnson was examined yesterday by team physician Steve Haas at Sibley Hospital, where X-rays disclosed the injury. The spokesman said Johnson would see Haas again today, and surgery may be scheduled for later in the week.
It was not immediately determined how long Johnson will be lost to the team. Last year, when he suffered a similar injury in February, he returned in time for the playoffs in April.
Leaving the hospital on crutches with his foot wrapped in a bandage, an obviously distraught Johnson only said, "I'll be all right."
The injury is the latest in a series of bedeviling events that life has dealt to Johnson, his good friend Jeff Ruland and, as a result, the Bullets organization.
Last January, Ruland, the team's 6-foot-10 center, injured his right shoulder against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Less than a month later, Johnson broke the fourth metatarsal bone in his left foot in the final seconds of a victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Both men returned to the team in time for the playoffs and the subsequent first-round elimination by the Philadelphia 76ers. But soon after the offseason began, both needed surgery. Over the summer, Johnson had a screw removed from the fifth metatarsal, which he injured during his college career at Wake Forest. He missed the first 15 games of this season while recuperating.
Ruland, meanwhile, was off to a start worthy of all-star consideration, collecting NBA player of the week honors for the period ending Dec. 7 and averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game.
But on Dec. 11, Ruland landed awkwardly on his right foot in the final minute of a win over Detroit, in the process fracturing and severely spraining his ankle. That injury has sent him to the sidelines for at least the next four weeks.
Johnson averaged 12.8 points and 5.4 assists in 13 games after his reactivation on Nov. 27. He had started the last nine games, a span in which his numbers improved to 15 points and seven assists.
On Saturday night against New Jersey, Johnson scored 10 points with five assists before apparently being hurt in the game's final seconds on a play that was strikingly reminiscent of how he was injured last season against Detroit.
Dribbling furiously up the floor in an attempt to beat the opposition's pressure and kill off the clock at the same time, the fifth-year veteran moved from one side of the floor, under the basket and out to the other side of the court, just as he had against the Pistons last Feb. 7.
This time, the Bullets called a timeout to try to control the final moments of the game. Not until the team had assembled at the bench was it noticed that Johnson had fallen to the floor at the other end of the court.
Johnson, who was replaced at that point, came back into the game for the last few seconds. The severity of his injury was not discovered until later in the Washington locker room. So the Bullets once again had lost their two team leaders.
When Ruland was injured last season, the team looked to the Tampa Bay Thrillers of the Continental Basketball Association and plucked Charles Jones from the minor league team's roster. At best considered a journeyman up to that point, Jones performed admirably for the remainder of the season and has since become one of the team's mainstays.
When Ruland incurred his latest injury, the replacement once again came from the CBA and once again from Tampa Bay -- this time, guard Freeman Williams. After averaging 28 points a game with the Thrillers, Williams has shown an abilty to score.
The move paid off against the Nets on Saturday night, when Williams scored 17 points. They came mainly on plays originating from one-on-one sets, similar to those employed by the Clippers in the 1978-79 and 1979-80 seasons, when Williams played in San Diego.
Bullets Coach Gene Shue was the Clippers' coach at the time, and Williams, who averaged about 18 points in the second season and 19 when Shue left for Washington the next year, was a big part of that San Diego offense.
"We had a lot of one-on-one offense there," said Shue. "Sidney Wicks, Nick Weatherspoon, Freeman and then World Free. We ran a lot of patterns, but it was mainly just so the players could catch the ball in certain areas of the court."
The fact that Williams came upon hard times after the 1980-81 season and hasn't played in the NBA in two years didn't deter Shue when the Bullets decided to add a player. "He must know I have confidence in him. The last time I saw him I did," Shue said.
If there were any doubts in Williams' mind, they were dispelled when Shue put him into the game Saturday night, cleared out one side of the floor and told him to go to work.
"He really didn't have to tell me to shoot. If I'm open, I'm gonna take the shot," said Williams, who had impressive statistics during his years at Portland State. "It's important that you take good shots, though. You can't come in and start putting everything up, trying to score a lot of points." Warriors 130, Lakers 122
In Inglewood, Calif., Joe Barry Carroll scored 30 points and the Golden State Warriors held off Los Angeles in the final minutes.
Down by 17 points late in the first half, Los Angeles drew within 117-111 with 4:44 left, but Golden State scored six straight points.
A three-point basket by guard Byron Scott got the Lakers within 125-120 with 56 seconds left, but the defending NBA champions could get no closer.
Rookie Chris Mullin had 24 points for Golden State.