Manute Bol was smiling Saturday night, but then so was almost everybody associated with the Washington Bullets.
The team won its fourth game in a row and the sixth in its last seven Saturday night at Capital Centre, beating the Atlanta Hawks, 111-103. During the game, Bol was blocking everything but the aisles.
The 7-foot-7 rookie had 15 blocked shots and caused countless Atlanta shots to be altered. The 15 blocks were the most in the NBA this season and the second-highest total in league history. On Oct. 28, 1973, Elmore Smith, then with the Los Angeles Lakers, had 17 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
A few of Saturday's highlights:
*Jon Koncak, the rookie from SMU, started at center for the Hawks in place of Tree Rollins, who had a sore toe. Koncak was the victim of Bol's first block with 8:57 left in the first quarter. Five seconds later, the Bullets' Cliff Robinson got three of his game-high 38 points on a fast break started by Bol's block. By the end of the first quarter, Bol had blocked the shots of four different players and twice rejected high-flying Dominique Wilkins, the NBA's third-leading scorer.
*With seven blocks at the half, Bol had 199 for the season. With 5:31 left in the third quarter, he got No. 200, again foiling Koncak. However, the Hawks did score on the possession when Wilkins grabbed a rebound and changed direction in the air to avoid Bol's arm and make the layup.
*With 2:43 left in the third period, Bol blocked the shot of his former teammate in the U.S. Basketball League, Spud Webb, who is listed at 5-7. For those slow with subtraction, that's about a two-foot difference.
Late in the third period, Bol blocked two of Koncak's shots within four seconds.
With 8:01 left in the game, Bol returned a Wilkins shot for his 13th block, which set a team record.
Finally, with 4:47 left, Bol got No. 15. Koncak, again.
"He's so athletic, and he has instincts," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue, who smiled and added, "He's also tall.
"He doesn't have to be off his feet to block a shot; he can just hang over. When he's on his toes, he's probably 7-10, and then he's probably 10-4 or 10-5 with his arm extended."
In comparing him with the great shot-blockers of history, Shue said, "Manute is the best . . . Manute blocks a shot and usually keeps it in play. Elmore Smith was one of those guys who would swat half of them out of bounds. (Bill) Russell had that ability (to keep them in play). Wilt (Chamberlain) was another guy who liked to swat."
Wilkins finished with 35 points, but he was only 12 for 30 from the floor (40 percent). In his previous 14 games, he had been hitting 52.5 percent. The Hawks shot only 42.7 percent from the field.
Bol said, "I was trying to jump out at the ball and then let Dan Roundfield and Cliff Robinson and Jeff Malone and CJ (Charles Jones) go for the rebound. Gene said I should come back on defense and not go to the offensive board because they run the ball."
Robinson finished with 11 rebounds, Roundfield 10 and Bol four. Robinson's season-high 38 points included 13 in the fourth quarter, which began with the Bullets trailing by two.
Bol has started the last 22 games in place of injured Jeff Ruland, who was not ready to play Saturday. Ruland practiced Friday for the first time since he fractured his right ankle Dec. 11, but he still had too much pain when he tested the ankle Saturday morning during the Bullets' light shooting practice.
"I still have trouble moving side to side," Ruland said. "I can't make the sharp turn. You can make that sharp cut on your right foot, but I kind of have to circle around to change directions.
"It's bound to be swollen for a while. I was talking to Mac (Tom McMillen), and he said he had swelling for a long time, so it's to be expected. I'm looking forward to practice Monday and Tuesday, and hopefully I can play Wednesday (at Indiana)."
Malone, who has the flu, scored 29 points, though he barely felt well enough to show up. "I didn't get any sleep (Friday) night," Malone said. "But Gene called and said to come in. It wasn't too bad and I felt good shooting. I felt weak down the stretch (just two free throws), but now we have two or three days off."
The Bullets are 23-21 and 11 games behind Boston. They are 12-10 without Ruland.
Robinson said he thinks he and the Bullets have improved in Ruland's absence and looks forward to adding Ruland's punch to lineup.
"It's made me a much better player, and I think it's made us a better team," Robinson said. "And it will show when he comes back, because we'll be adding 21 points and 12 rebounds (Ruland's averages).
"It's exciting. With Manute and the way he's come through, then add Ruland, and we'll be a pretty good team."