Bullets' Grant, Ellison ascending to King's exalted throne

January 04, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

LANDOVER -- Harvey Grant plays opposite the NBA's leading scorer and Pervis Ellison is still partially hidden by the slim shadow of Charles Jones. Yet they are two reasons why the Washington Bullets have become more than a one-man show.

Bernard King continued his incredible shooting spree, taking over the league lead with 46 points (30.8 average) as the Bullets outlasted Charlotte 118-108 last night at the Capital Centre. But King's scoring binge would have gone to waste had it not been for Grant and Ellison.

Grant contributed 27 points in 45 workmanlike minutes while Ellison was the game's top rebounder (12). In addition, the youngest members of the Bullets' front line also provided the defensive impetus that thwarted the Hornets' big men.

"Grant has been playing well for quite a while now," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "He's right on schedule -- it takes about three years to get adjusted to the NBA. By then you know if a guy can play."

Ellison is in his second year and admittedly was lost early in the season after being obtained in the trade that cost the Bullets their leading scorer, guard Jeff Malone. He isn't ready to move Jones out of the starting spot at center -- but he is getting a lot of minutes at the position.

"I thought he was intimidating out there," said Unseld. "He played real strong and his playing time will continue to be determined by his production."

In addition to his rebounding, Ellison also blocked four shots while playing 30 minutes as Jones' replacement. "It took me a long time to figure out what coach wanted me to do defensively and offensively," he said. "But now I think I'm starting to blend with the rest of the team."

Grant's progress (he's averaging 18 points) actually has Unseld suggesting he might be the Bullets' best player, despite the heroics of King. "Right now he might be the best thing we've got going, with his defense and everything else," said Unseld. "He just does a lot of things out there."

Unseld was quick to point out that the Bullets were not bothered by Armon Gilliam, who had 39 points in a Charlotte victory earlier in the year. Gilliam had only nine last night -- and that was five more than J.R. Reid managed against Ellison and Jones.

The Bullets had a couple of chances to bury the Hornets last night, but, as usual, they ended up in a dogfight. "It's always a struggle when we play," said veteran guard Darrell Walker.

"We had some chances to put them away, and I kept hoping we would, but obviously we didn't," said Unseld, who had King on the bench for eight minutes in the second quarter and the first four minutes of the last period, when things got hairy.

King's unspectacular style may have fooled Unseld. "I had no idea he had that many points," he said. "It looked like he wanted to get 50 again -- and I wish he had, just to get the thing over with earlier."

King scored the Bullets' first 10 points, had 15 in both the first and third quarters and has scored 98 in his last two games.

"It seems the NBA's prolific scorers have great nights against us and this was no different," said Charlotte coach Gene Littles, who like Unseld didn't realize King had that many points. "We just weren't aggressive on defense. They [the Bullets] figured nobody could guard Bernard -- and they were right."

But the Bullets haven't been just a one-man team lately. They've now won five of their last seven -- and seven of their last nine at home -- primarily because King, as spectacular as he's been, doesn't have to do it alone.

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