Without Ledell Eackles, with John Williams a question mark and Pervis Ellison having something to prove about his NBA abilities, the Washington Bullets begin training camp this morning at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Md., with rookies and free agents starting two-a-day practices at Memorial Gymnasium.
Rookie A.J. English, second-round draftee from Virginia Union, starts out off a strong performance in rookie camp and free agent scrimmages in Detroit this summer and is probably front-runner for off-guard, with Eackles still a holdout. Tony Harris, a 6-foot-4 rookie from New Orleans -- the same school as Eackles -- also excelled during rookie camp. Mike Morrison, acquired Friday from Phoenix for a conditional 1993 second-round pick, will have to impress with his athleticism.
Up front, two local rookies, Sam Jefferson of Georgetown and Ron Draper of American, will have to show rebounding strength to survive early cuts. Washington will get its first true look at Greg Foster, second-round selection out of Texas-El Paso who missed rookie camp. But the Bullets are excited about his high-post passing skills. The longest -- and biggest -- shot of camp is Michel Bonebo, a 7-3 center out of small St. Michael's College.
Veterans report Thursday, with Darrell Walker and Bernard King the only clear incumbents. Walker's chronic tendinitis in his Achilles' tendons has subsided after a summer off, but he'll no doubt practice lightly the first few days. King is in great shape, coming off a season in which he and Mark Alarie were the only Bullets to play in all 82 games.
Ellison's arrival at center gives the Bullets options on how and where to use Charles Jones, who finished sixth in the league in blocks last season. The 6-9 Jones gave away too much weight to guard the league's bigger centers, but could have more success at power forward. Or the Bullets could bring him off the bench and go to more trapping and pressing.
Harvey Grant, who started the final 20 games at power forward, has lifted weights all summer. He showed increasing confidence in his offensive game and if he can stay active on the boards he might continue on the first five.
As a second-year player Tom Hammonds could be a factor at power forward by the time camp ends. He spent most of the summer in Atlanta getting his degree from Georgia Tech, and trying to improve his ballhandling, which was maddening to both players and coaches at times last season. The newly married Alarie, who also spent much of the summer weightlifting, and guard Steve Colter are solidly entrenched as bench contributors.