LANDOVER -- The Washington Bullets, who were anticipating being at full strength after the All-Star break, when they plan to reactivate forward John Williams, suffered another setback yesterday in losing veteran guard Darrell Walker for at least three weeks.
Walker strained ligaments in his right knee after falling to the floor in the first half of the Bullets' 107-98 victory over the Knicks in New York Thursday night. He tried to play briefly in the second quarter, but limped off the court.
He was examined by team orthopedist Steve Haas in Washington yesterday afternoon. Haas performed a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test to confirm the ligament injury. The Bullets captain, who leads the team in rebounding (8.2) and assists (7.1), has a mobile cast.
Walker must sit out a minimum of five games on the injured list. He was also suffering from chronic soreness in his Achilles' tendons.
Bullets coach Wes Unseld named Byron Irvin to start in Walker's place against the Pistons last night. It is on defense and the boards that Walker's loss will be felt. Neither rookie A.J. English nor veteran Ledell Eackles is noted for his defensive skills. Eackles sat out last night's game with the flu.
Unseld and general manager John Nash, who was scouting college games in California, said they had no plans to immediately fill the vacant roster spot.
"We're going to monitor the situation and keep our options open," said Nash. "But last year, Wes went most of the season with only four guards.
"We're hoping that Darrell won't have to miss many games. But his injury opens a spot on the roster for Williams when Wes feels it's the appropriate time to reactivate him."
Unseld said Walker's injury would not influence him to return Williams to active duty any sooner than intended.
"If I felt there was someone else out there that could help us, I might add him to our roster," Unseld said. "But right now, I have no one in mind.
"It's hard to judge how badly we'll miss Darrell. Obviously, he helps our rebounding and defense, but he also does a lot of intangible things. We just hope Ledell can step in and play like he can."
The only Bullet who might have profited from Walker's injury is Irvin, the lightly played guard who was considered the most likely to be cut to make room for Williams. Irvin was acquired from Sacramento in November.
The Bullets were also without reserve forward Mark Alarie, who suffered a laceration under the orbit of his right eye after catching an accidental elbow Thursday night from teammate Charles Jones. He also is expected to miss tomorrow afternoon's game in Boston.