Less than a week since he joined the team, Steve Colter may become the starting point guard for the Washington Bullets. He would replace veteran Frank Johnson, who just recently supplanted rookie Tyrone Bogues.
"I'm thinking about it," Coach Kevin Loughery said of a switch after Saturday night's 102-97 loss in Milwaukee.
Colter, who was signed to replace injured Darrell Walker (sprained right ankle), played 33 minutes against the Bucks. He scored six points, with three assists and three rebounds. In his first game as a Bullet, Colter started the second half and played all but two minutes of the third and fourth periods.
"I thought he did a good job considering he had never played for us," Loughery said. "He moved well and things seemed to flow when he was in there."
Almost immediately after the game, Johnson and Bogues left the Mecca. Johnson, the starter, had made his only shot and passed for two assists in eight minutes, but didn't play in the second half. Bogues, the Bullets' first-round draft choice from Wake Forest, played seven minutes, missing four shots but issuing three assists.
"I guess I didn't play well when I was out there," Johnson said when asked why he didn't play in the second half. "What can I do? The important thing is that the team win. When I'm in the game, I'm trying to do whatever I possibly can to help make that happen."
Johnson and Bogues had seemed to be on something of an upswing in recent games. In a 109-96 win over Chicago on Dec. 18, Johnson didn't score but had a personal season-high 11 assists in three quarters; Bogues had nine. In Tuesday's 106-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Johnson had nine assists.
Yet, after the loss to Milwaukee, Loughery said the team "has to get more production from the point guard spot." Asked what he meant specifically, the coach said, "Just general all-around play. The daily game evaluations haven't been high for that position. It's not only at that position, but that definitely is one of the spots we've been concerned about."
Loughery has been concerned with the point all season. Bogues started the first dozen games but struggled for consistency with his jump shot. Claiming to be more comfortable coming off the bench, the 5-foot-3 playmaker has averaged five points and six assists in a reserve role over the past 11 games.
The Bullets went 4-8 with Bogues starting. Since Johnson became the starter at the beginning of this month, they have gone 4-8 again.
Johnson has averaged just above six points and almost four assists. Even as a starter, though, he has been given limited playing time. He has averaged 18 minutes per game, usually playing the first eight minutes or so of the first and third periods, then getting a call later in the fourth.
"It's a situation where we've wanted to take a look at someone else," Loughery said. "If Darrell was healthy, we'd probably be using him more at point guard."
For Colter, the switch would represent another chance to prove himself in the NBA. Cut by the Philadelphia 76ers 12 games into this season, the fourth-year player has had some impressive flashes during his career. In his rookie season with the Portland Trail Blazers, he averaged 7.1 points per game, increasing that to 8.9 during the playoffs, when he had an outstanding series against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Traded from Portland to Chicago and from Chicago to Philadelphia last season, Colter averaged six points and three assists in 70 games with the Bulls and 76ers. He said he was surprised when Philadelphia released him.
"Just before it happened, they told me that I was doing what they wanted me to do: come off the bench, move the ball around, keep things moving," he said. "Then, as soon as I got waived, I read where they said that I wasn't responding to coming off the bench."
Colter said he was hardly surprised he played so much Saturday: "They had said they were going to get a good look at me. I feel I played pretty well, but it's not up to me to say, it's up to them."