At least the Washington Bullets found themselves a No. 1 draft choice for the coming season. Make that a former No. 1 draft choice.
And even if Byron Irvin has now been passed over twice in less than a year, he gives coach Wes Unseld some maneuverability at the shooting guard position.
Less than two hours after settling on what appeared to be the season-opening roster, the Bullets obtained Irvin from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for veteran guard Steve Colter. Earlier, guard Tony Harris and forward Sam Jefferson had been waived, reducing the Bullets' roster to the 12-man limit.
The addition of Irvin, 6 feet 5, means the Bullets will open the season Friday night in Miami with six new faces -- and a starting lineup that Unseld admits is a mystery. Neither John Williams, the AWOL forward, nor Ledell Eackles, the heir apparent to Jeff Malone, is included on the makeshift roster.
Williams probably will end up on the suspended list until he can resolve his weighty and monetary differences with the club. Eackles is currently in limbo, listed on the NBA's "right of first refusal list."
Although Williams' absence could have more of a long-range effect, it was the status of Eackles that led to yesterday's trade for Irvin. "He gives us some help where, I don't want to say we're weak, but we need it right now," said Unseld.
Irvin was Portland's No. 1 draft choice last year, but played sparingly, averaging 5.2 points and 10 minutes in 50 games. He went to Sacramento in a deal for Danny Ainge.
"He's a good stand-still shooter and a good defensive player," said Unseld, whose team is in desperate need of a backcourt scoring threat. That's the role Eackles was supposed to fill, but his asking price went through the roof when Malone was traded.
"My understanding is that it doesn't look like there's much of a chance of him being here," said Unseld. "And even if he was, it would be a while before he'd be ready to play." Eackles is available for offers from other teams, which the Bullets would have the right to match.
Williams, fighting a battle of the bulge after a knee injury last year, has refused to report because of fines levied for his not being in shape to perform. "I have no idea," Unseld said of Williams' status.
Unseld said almost the same thing when asked about his starting lineup. He had a practice scheduled for today, but because of injuries and yesterday's developments even that was uncertain. "I don't think we'll have 10 bodies, so I doubt we'll be able to do much," he said.
"I don't know about [Pervis] Ellison's situation and [Darrell] Walker has only practiced twice in the last two weeks," said Unseld. Ellison, the forward-center the Bullets obtained for Malone, has an ankle injury and Walker is suffering from strained Achilles' tendons.
Veteran forward Bernard King and Walker are the only tested starters on the roster, making the Bullets the early favorites to be the first to qualify for the NBA's 1991 lottery.