After a three-day all-star break, the Washington Bullets, who have lost five straight games, will return to reality Tuesday night when they begin a stretch of seven road games by playing the Trail Blazers here. Still, there was some good news for the Bullets today.
Jeff Ruland, who missed the two games before the all-star game with a tender right ankle, might be able to play here.
"This is obviously a very important time for us," Coach Gene Shue said of the trip west, which will continue with games against the Golden State Warriors, Seattle SuperSonics, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets. Two days after returning to Washington, where they will not play, the Bullets will go to Philadelphia and Cleveland.
Whenever Ruland is ready to play, the Bullets will resume the process of attempting to make the necessary adjustments for a stretch run.
"We don't need to make all kinds of changes," Shue said. "We just have to get the people we have used to playing together again."
The Bullets' various injuries and absences have hurt most in the area of execution and continuity on offense. All too often lately, called plays have broken down. Even when the plays are run through, the shots being taken aren't from the proper range. Picks are made in the right spots, but shooters are a foot or two farther out than usual.
That may seem trivial, but the statistics show that the Bullets failed to shoot 50 percent in the last five games.
Guard Leon Wood, who has played erratically during the losing streak, has fallen into disfavor with Shue. Wood said he told Shue that things were going to change and that the Bullets would win five of the next seven games.
Shue, however, was not impressed with Wood's abilities as a prognosticator.
"Leon told me he was going to win the three-point shooting contest, too," said Shue, referring to Wood's first-round elimination during last weekend's all-star festivities. "Words are all very nice, but it's action that I want to start seeing."
Just a day after the heady experience of playing on the Eastern Conference all-star team, Bullets guard Jeff Malone had to come down to earth again -- a three-hour plane ride here, followed by a scheduled two-hour practice.
"I know Gene doesn't want to give me the day off," said Malone, who scored six points and had four assists in 12 minutes of play for the winning East team. "But after he watches me play, he'll wish he had."