For Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Fred Carter, tonight's visit to the Baltimore Arena for a game against the Washington Bullets triggers memories of his days as a Baltimore Bullets backcourt reserve for Earl Monroe and Kevin Loughery.
"I was very coachable, even as a rookie," said Carter, taking a break from a Christmas Day party. "Gene Shue [now the 76ers general manager] was our head coach when I joined the team from Mount St. Mary's in 1969, and Bob Ferry [now an NBA analyst for NBC] was the assistant.
"We were playing the Lakers at home, the game was tied in the final minute and they had the ball. Shue put me in for defensive purposes and gave strict orders: 'If you get the ball, call a timeout!'
"Well, I stole the Lakers' inbounds pass with 10 seconds left and had a clear path for a layup. But I listened to Shue and called time. Fortunately, we beat the Lakers in overtime.
Carter, who was an assistant coach with the Bullets, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks before joining the 76ers staff in 1987, also recalled his Bullets playing debut.
"I came off the bench in an earlier game against the Lakers and made my first six shots as a pro," he said. "I thought to myself, 'Hey, this game is easy.' And then I found out how tough it can be."
That is why Carter is especially appreciative of the efforts this season of Rickey Green, who, at 36, is the oldest point guard in the National Basketball Association. Green became the 76ers' starting playmaker by default on Nov. 8, when Johnny Dawkins suffered a season-ending knee injury.
It is interesting that the 76ers turned to Green, who is playing for his seventh team since breaking into the league with the Golden State Warriors in 1977. Last year, Philadelphia had decided on a more youthful image, trading veteran guard Maurice Cheeks to the San Antonio Spurs for Dawkins.
Now, however, 76ers head coach Jim Lynam is counting his blessings that Green was available when Dawkins went down. Green has averaged 11.1 points and 5.2 assists, keeping his turnovers to 31 in 24 games.
"Rickey is one of the big reasons we're 18-8 and keeping #F pressure on the [first-place] Celtics," said Carter.
"All the teams are forced to double-down on Charles Barkley. He is our Superman, our top scorer and go-to guy.
"They know Charles' first option is to kick the ball out to Hersey Hawkins, our best outside shooter. So teams quickly rotate to him.That has left Rickey open, and he's done a great job burning the defenses by making that open 15- or 20-foot shot."
The 76ers didn't know whether Green could do the job. After seven solid seasons with the Utah Jazz, he fell into disfavor in 1987-88, playing only about half as many minutes as in the previous season. Left unprotected in the 1988 expansion draft, he was chosen by the Charlotte Hornets. He was waived Feb. 22, 1989, and signed by the Milwaukee Bucks a week later. Green signed with the Indiana Pacers before the 1989-90 season, but averaged only 13 minutes while playing in 69 games.
But Green, who outlasted contemporaries Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson, John Lucas and World B. Free, says he never lost his confidence.
"I don't feel any different now than when I was starting for Utah," Green said. "But at 34 and 35, you usually lose a chance to start. I didn't think I'd be in this situation again.
"Now I'm going against the best point guards in the world, but no one is going to use me out there. People have negatives about age. Old is however old you feel, but I still have that same drive to excel. If you don't, you won't last as long as I have."
The 76ers, who have won eight of their past 10 games, are meeting another hot team in the Bullets (10-15), who have won their past three, and five straight at home. Their most recent victory was a 20-point road blowout Saturday night of the Cleveland Cavaliers with Bernard King scoring 46 -- his high as a Bullet.
"The last four games, we've played with great intensity and everyone is getting involved," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld. "Bernard has been terrific all year, but now we're also getting great efforts from Haywoode Workman and Harvey Grant, and Pervis Ellison is starting to come around."
In his past two games, Ellison, hampered by inconsistency and injuries, has shown signs of putting it together. Used off the bench against Indiana and Cleveland, he grabbed a total of 26 rebounds and was intimidating on defense.
Bullets in Baltimore
For the third season in a row, the Washington Bullets will play four regular-season games at the Baltimore Arena. Last season, the Bullets were 3-1 in Baltimore. Here is the 1989-90 schedule:
Date Opponent Time
Tonight 76ers 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 Pacers 8 p.m.
Feb. 17 Nets 1 p.m.
March 22 Hawks 8 p.m.