RICHMOND, OCT. 14 -- The good thing for the Washington Bullets is that it's just a preseason game, their first, and that the idea wasn't as much to win as to look at the 17 players on the roster.
The bad thing was that they lost, 115-99, to a Los Angeles Clippers team that was playing its third game in three nights. This was a team that had played Detroit twice in two nights and had a 4:45 a.m. wakeup call and had to fly all day from St. Louis. In fact, the Clippers were so late getting in that the game's start was delayed from 7 to 7:30.
You never get a team playing its third game in three nights anymore, except in these barnstorming tours during preseason. It's safe to say Los Angeles was tired. But the Clippers looked like the team with fresh legs. They also were the team that was familiar with each other and had some sense of what everyone was supposed to do on the floor.
"It looked like an exhibition game," the Bullets' Pervis Ellison said. Washington committed 25 turnovers and shot .371 (33 of 89) from the floor. And rookie A.J. English had a terrible homecoming.
Clippers reserve guard Jeff Martin scored all 17 of his points in the second half to lead Los Angeles (1-2), which was playing without Danny Manning and Charles Smith. Center Benoit Benjamin had 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots, and created havoc around the basket all night.
"The obvious weaknesses we have were very evident before the game, and during the game," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said.
Bernard King had 18 points to lead Washington (0-1), which shot a dismal .348 from the floor in the first half. Harvey Grant added 11, while Ellison scored nine and blocked five shots in a foul-marred evening. Free agent Ron Draper from American University scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
The Clippers led almost all night, and except for brief Washington flurries here and there, the Bullets were never in sync. But there were some positive signs. Greg Foster grabbed 10 rebounds in nine minutes and did a good job defensively, riding Los Angeles' big men out of the lane.
"I thought I rebounded well," Foster said. "That's the biggest plus for me. I feel if I have a better rebounding game, I'll have a better all-around game."
Washington went with its starters for about half of the first quarter and most of the third, but much of the night was spent giving the reserves a good look.
English was suffering from an understandable case of backhome-itis. He played his college ball just down the road from the Richmond Coliseum at Virginia Union, winning Division II player of the year honors last season, and had played several games in this building.
The only interest the crowd of 5,379 showed in the game was when he and Los Angeles rookie Bo Kimble came in the game together. The leading Division I and II scorers of last season didn't fare so well offensively, however. English was three of 13; Kimble five of 16.
"I've got a lot of learning to do," English said. "You need games like this to wake you up and say 'I've got work to do.' You want to do so well. I think I put too much pressure on myself to do well. The city has really embraced me."
He finished with seven points, and had a particularly ignominious moment late when he dribbled the ball off his foot on a breakaway.
Said Unseld: "I wanted to play A.J. before the home folks, even though I knew it wasn't doing him any favors. I've been around 23 years and I've seen 23 rookies come home and have bad games. Just awful. I know because I was one of them."
And of course, they were playing without the missing John Williams and holdout Ledell Eackles. A total of 69 fouls were called between the teams and they combined to shoot 88 free throws.
"First-game jitters," guard Darrell Walker (eight rebounds) said. "Everyone was throwing the ball all over the place. I was, everybody was. A lot of turnovers. But we'll be all right."