The dark skies cleared a little with John Williams's arrival at Capital Centre yesterday, but the Washington Bullets still have at least a couple dozen games to play, beginning tonight in Miami against the Heat, before they will even get Williams back on the floor.
They struggled through an 0-7 preseason without Williams and holdout guard Ledell Eackles. The Bullets found points hard to come by at times, as several new players tried to adapt to the passing game offense. With six new faces on the current roster, and injuries to Bernard King, Darrell Walker and Tom Hammonds during the exhibitions, there was almost nothing in the way of offensive continuity.
But in the last couple of games, Washington improved. Among the bright spots, Pervis Ellison looked like he could rebound effectively and block shots in the middle. And free agent guard Larry Robinson worked his way onto the team with a quick grasp of the half-court sets. He was rewarded with a start at off-guard tonight, and, as of now, Coach Wes Unseld said, he will be joined by another free agent, Haywoode Workman, at the point. "But that can change," Unseld said.
"Preseason helps because you do get an opportunity to play against other teams," Ellison said. "To play against each other is tough when you're in college, and in the pros it definitely gets boring. We've got a lot of young guys on the team and they're anxious to get started, to see what the NBA is all about. I need it because I didn't play a whole lot of Eastern Conference teams" last season.
A year ago, Robinson was going into his senior season at Centenary in Shreveport, La., "going to class, trying to be a team leader, just hanging out with my girlfriend and my basketball buddies. I never in all my days thought that I could be starting in NBA basketball the next year, starting the first game. Never. If you were told you were going to start, how would you react?"
The Robinson-Workman back court was the most effective in the last few preseason games. Regular starter Walker wasn't around, suffering from tendinitis. He practiced for the fourth straight day yesterday and said his Achilles' tendons felt fine, but how long he can play is uncertain.
Ellison practiced at Bowie State University yesterday after missing several days with a turned ankle. He said the ankle felt better in the last couple of days, but his status is uncertain. Either he or Charles Jones will start in the middle with Bernard King and Harvey Grant as forwards.
The average age of the team has already come down from 26.5 to 25.5 years in the five months John Nash has been general manager.
"If you have a championship team or a playoff team with a lot of chemistry," Nash said, "maybe by bringing in six new people, you'd be upsetting the apple cart. But frankly, coming off a 31-win season, and recognizing that if we didn't begin to make some changes, we were probably going to have difficulty, it's a necessary evil. If it is an evil. Sometimes it can be pretty refreshing."