Manute Bol sat dazed in a coffee shop here late Monday night as replays of fast-breaking Los Angeles Lakers danced in his head. Although he and the Washington Bullets had just been routed by the Sacramento Kings, 106-87, Sunday night's 118-88 misadventure downstate haunted him.
"I don't sleep at all last night, my body's so sore," he said. "Those Lakers run like a machine. I like watching them on television, but I don't like playing against them."
One can imagine the nightmares that awaited the rookie center when his head hit the pillow Monday night after the Kings game. The irony of Bol's restlessness is that he is relatively absolved from any of the blame for the back-to-back losses that dropped the Bullets to 16-18 heading for Wednesday night's game at Phoenix.
Time and again, Coach Gene Shue has said the team expects no offense from Bol, who did manage to hit a nice 10-foot jumper in the game. And one free throw.
Not much in the way of scoring is expected from Charles Jones, either, but against the Kings, things got so bad that in the third quarter -- in which Washington made just nine of 25 shots -- Jones was high for the Bullets with 10 points. Incredibly, Shue even went so far as to run several plays for Jones, who averages 2.8 points per game.
Clearly, the Bullets have serious offensive problems, illustrated by the scoring drought on this trip west. They shot 38 and 36 percent in the two games.
The Bullets are missing the power of Jeff Ruland's inside game and Frank Johnson's deft handling of the offense. Against Sacramento, the team also had to compensate for the loss of Dan Roundfield to an ankle injury and Freeman Williams to a back infection. Both are listed as questionable against the Suns.
"I thought we'd have a chance if Roundfield was ready, if Freeman was ready," said Shue. "But when they weren't and the others were having subpar shooting nights, there's no one to put in, and all you can do is sit and watch."
The loss to the Lakers, with their talented athletes, wasn't surprising. But falling to the 12-22 Kings was particularly troubling.
As wonderful as Bol is on defense, games like these show how much of an offensive cipher he is. Unable or at least unwilling to incorporate him in the team's attack, Shue often stations Bol as far as 25 feet from the basket.
The move is designed largely to draw the opposition's center outside, ostensibly clearing some room for the Bullets' scorers to go to work. Now, however, teams are starting to get around that by putting just anyone -- even guards -- on Bol and leaving their big men down near the basket.
Yet having the center so far outside is contrary to the nature of Shue's offensive philosophy.
"You want to have your center right in the middle of things, either setting screens or passing the ball to cutters," he said. "Manute hasn't developed that far yet, though, so when he's in, we're limited in the number of plays we can run."
In Ruland's absence, that has meant more and more isolation and two-man games, in which three men move to the other side of the court and a guard pitches the ball to Cliff Robinson, currently the Bullets' best inside player, near the base line. That move is becoming less and less effective as teams begin to send waves of players after the forward the moment the ball is thrown.
"When I get it low, there's just nothing there," Robinson said. "Unless the guards are on (shooting effectively) from the outside, teams are double- and triple-teaming me all the time."
In the two games to date on this five-game tour, the guards, Gus Williams and Jeff Malone, have not been hitting. They have made only 19 of 53 shots. Malone is a wonderful shooter but is far more effective in the patterned offense than in one-on-one play.
"We've just got to get our execution back sometime soon," Malone said. "A lot of the plays we run, the picks have to happen at certain spots so that you can get your shot off in the places that you're comfortable with. Right now, we're getting pushed out too far, and that makes the shots that much harder."
Malone is a marked man for opponents who know that he and Robinson are the main outlets for whatever offensive power Washington is capable of generating.
The pair may be the only members of the squad not struck by the injury and flu bug that has hit the Bullets recently. But having a strong constitution may not be all it's cracked up to be, especially if the reward is getting whacked on the head every night.
"Look at us," said Robinson, waving at his teammates in the locker room after the loss to the Kings. "Jeff and Frank aren't here. Kenny (Green) just arrived today after being sick. Gus and Darren (Daye) are just getting better after being sick, and Freeman and Dan couldn't play at all. That makes it tough, real tough, and on top of that you're on the road.
"You never like to lose; it just gives you a bad feeling. Everyone in here is giving their best. It's just right now we don't have enough to get it done."