The Washington Bullets, with six new players on their roster, are in a major rebuilding phase this season. But it is a minor project compared to that of the Sacramento Kings, who have only three players remaining from last year's team, which won only 23 games.
The growing pains have been even more severe for the Kings, who visit the Bullets (2-6) tonight. With four rookies on the roster, and forward Lionel Simmons and shooting guard Travis Mays rushed into starting jobs, Sacramento (0-7) is the only National Basketball Association team still winless.
Dick Motta, who replaced Jerry Reynolds as head coach last December, wasted no time cleaning house as soon as the 1989-90 season ended.
"There was a defeatist attitude here that was hard to define," said Motta, who has 824 career victories. "You can't sweep it under the door, but I got tired of it. I wanted to rattle the tree a little bit."
Motta's revisionist plans got strong support from Reynolds, who after being stressed out as coach, moved into the general manager's job.
When Motta and Reynolds finished making moves, power forward Wayman Tisdale was the only remaining starter on the roster. The other two holdovers are reserve forward Antoine Carr and center Ralph Sampson, whose multi-million dollar salary and questionable knees prevented the Kings from trading him in the off-season.
Today, the Kings resemble the expansion Chicago Bulls that Motta inherited in 1968. Instead of mainly using retreads, however, Motta is relying heavily on his four rookies -- Simmons, Mays, center Duane Causwell and forward Anthony Bonner (on the injured list) to build a better future.
"The team simply had to be redone," Reynolds said yesterday. "This really should have happened four years ago. Our fans knew it was necessary after watching us lose 13 of our last 14 games, including the last six at home.
"There were a few people in the organization who might have wanted to go slower in changing faces, but once we started, it kind of snow balled."
Reynolds already sees the start of a winning nucleus in Tisdale, Simmons, the celebrated "L-train" from La Salle who is averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, and Mays, the Texas sharpshooter who has replaced veteran Bobby Hansen in the starting backcourt.
"Simmons is even better than we thought," said Reynolds. "He is a very creative one-on-one player, but he can also post up most small forwards. Defensively, he is one of the best rookies I've seen in this league."
L That the Kings are still winless points up obvious problems.
"It's safe to say we still have a few holes to fill," Reynolds said. "We don't have depth at guard, and we haven't yet decided on our player rotation, especially at center."
Motta has juggled four different players at center, with journeyman Bill Wennington, obtained from Dallas, as his starter.
Eric Leckner, who came with Hansen from Utah in the three-team deal that also involved the Bullets' Jeff Malone and the Kings' Pervis Ellison, has not fulfilled expectations. Causwell has been erratic, and Sampson plays mostly at the end of lopsided games.
"Right now, our team reminds me of an old country-western song," said Reynolds. "We're trying to make the best of a bad situation."
Hello, I must be going
` Departed Kings * Pervis Ellison, forward, traded to Washington as part of three-team trade with Utah.
* Rodney McCray, forward, traded to Dallas with future draft picks.
* Danny Ainge, guard, traded to Portland for future draft picks.
* Kenny Smith, guard, traded to Atlanta (now with Houston).
* Byron Irvin, guard, traded to Washington.
* Vinny Del Negro, guard, free agent playing in Italy.
* Howard Pressley, forward, released.
2& * Henry Turner, forward, released.
* Lionel Simmons, forward, first-round draft choice.
* Travis Mays, guard, first-round draft choice.
* Duane Causwell, center, first-round draft choice.
* Anthony Bonner, forward, first-round draft choice.
* Bob Hansen, guard, obtained in trade with Utah.
* Eric Leckner, center, obtained in trade with Utah.
* Rory Sparrow, guard, obtained from Miami for draft rights to Bimbo Coles.
* Bill Wennington, center, obtained in trade with Dallas.
* Steve Colter, guard, obtained in trade with Washington.