Robinson, Workman beating the odds Bullets free agents play starting roles

November 08, 1990|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

BOWIE -- Ask rookie free agent Larry Robinson what the odds might have been in training camp that he would be the Washington Bullets' starting shooting guard, and he rolls his eyes and says, "They don't make odds that high."

The odds were just as great for point guard Haywoode Workman, another free agent who shared the backcourt with Robinson while the Bullets were losing to the Miami Heat and beating the Chicago Bulls last weekend in their first two games of the National Basketball Association season.

Seven-year veteran Darrell Walker, who has been slowed by Achilles' tendon problems, will replace Workman as a starter against the Knicks at New York tomorrow night, but Robinson nTC and Workman remain the most pleasant surprises of the new season.

Robinson, in particular, showed unusual poise for a rookie in the Bullets' upset of the Bulls Saturday, when he contributed 10 points in 21 minutes, went against superstar Michael Jordan and scored three pressure baskets in the final quarter.

"I knew I couldn't stop Jordan by myself," said Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound guard from Centenary College in Shreveport, "but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I must have done something right."

Robinson and Workman did a number of things right, first surviving training camp and then convincing coach Wes Unseld that they would not be embarrassed as immediate starters.

Robinson proved he was more prepared to start than draft choice A.J. English, who struggled with his shooting in the exhibition season. He also benefited from the absence of veteran Ledell Eackles.

Workman, an Oral Roberts alumnus who had two 10-day trials with the Atlanta Hawks last season, got the starting nod after Walker missed most of the preseason. The Bullets traded holdover Steve Colter to the Sacramento Kings for Byron Irvin.

Both free agents took circuitous routes to Washington. Robinson sandwiched auditions with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Denver Nuggets around a two-day June trial with the Bullets.

"We liked what we saw of Robinson at the early camp," said Unseld. "He has shooting skills and knows what to do on the floor. We wanted him to stay, but he had made other commitments."

Robinson played for the Nuggets in the Midwest Rookie Revue but never felt comfortable.

"The chemistry just wasn't right," he said. "The other Denver players looked at me like I was trying to take their job. They'd just kind of stare and wouldn't talk.

"The Bullets are much more like a family. Even though A.J. and I are fighting for the same spot, we help each other on and off the floor."

Robinson also impressed Seattle coach K.C. Jones. He averaged 21 points playing with the Sonics' rookies in the California summer league.

Workman has had only a few days off all year. After his brief stint with the Hawks, he played last winter for the Topeka Sizzlers of the Continental Basketball Association. When that season ended, he signed with the Illinois Express in the summer World Basketball League.

"I left them during the playoffs so that I could try out for the Bullets," Workman said. "I got fined, but I didn't think I would get too many opportunities like this."

A 6-foot-3 guard, he has provided steady leadership at the point. Despite facing traps and double-teams, he committed only one turnover against the Bulls.

"I believe in my scoring ability," he said, "but that is not my role on this team. I'm out there to run the team and get the ball in the right hands. On Saturday, it was 'B' [Bernard King, who scored 44 points]."

Neither Workman nor Robinson seems distracted by the activation of forward John Williams or by the negotiations with Eackles, who appears to be closer to terms with the Bullets.

"Right now, this team has only two point guards -- Darrell and me," said Workman. "If I continue to do what I have to, I'll keep my job."

Changing of the Bullets guards

Gone

* Jeff Malone, traded to Utah in three-way deal with Sacramento for forward/center Pervis Ellison.

* Steve Colter, traded to Sacramento for guard Byron Irvin.

Missing

* Ledell Eackles, restricted free agent, still in contract negotiations.

Here

* Darrell Walker, starter at point guard last season.

* A.J. English, second-round draft choice from Virginia Union.

* Larry Robinson, free agent from Centenary College.

* Haywoode Workman, free agent from Oral Roberts, played six games with Atlanta last season.

* Byron Irvin, played 50 games for Portland as rookie last season. Traded with future draft picks to Sacramento for Danny Ainge, then traded to Washington for Colter.

Bullets tonight

Opponent: New York Knicks

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York, 7:30 p.m.

@Radio: WTOP (1500 AM)

TV: Channel 20

Outlook: Veteran Darrell Walker will replace Haywoode Workman starting point guard, but coach Wes Unseld was uncertain whether Charles Jones or Pervis Ellison would start at center against Patrick Ewing. The Knicks swept the five-game series with the Bullets last season. Washington has not won at the Garden since April 15, 1988. The Knicks have lost their first two home games this season, to Boston and Dallas. They didn't lose their second game at home last season until Feb. 25. Knicks F Kenny Walker and F John Starks are sidelined with sprained knees.

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