When a team holds a meeting after losing 19 of its past 22 games and disappearing from the playoff race, you would expect a lot of finger-pointing, acrimony and possibly even a few punches.
But the Washington Bullets, who held a "clear the air" meeting Wednesday afternoon in Boston, are not about to start blaming one another for the two-month tailspin that has all but guaranteed them a lottery spot.
"There was really nothing to be angry about," said coach Wes Unseld, hoping to end the skid against the Atlanta Hawks at the Baltimore Arena tonight.
"Nobody is quitting. We just had to try to understand what's going on. We've got to be at full strength to compete. Take away 30 points when Bernard King goes down, and it's almost impossible. And after losing Darrell Walker [on Jan. 31], we've only out-rebounded four teams."
Said Walker: "Nobody was jumping down anyone's throat. This team is unique. Everybody gets along fine, but people have a tendency to get depressed and frustrated during a losing streak like we've been through."
But after everyone had their say, they all seemed to share Unseld's opinion that the team's current status was not a result of a lack of effort, but rather injuries to key players.
"Every team has its share of injuries, but we've probably had more than any," said Walker, who was leading the team in rebounding before spraining his knee against the Knicks.
The Bullets rallied to win that game behind King's 49 points, raising their record to 20-23, seventh best in the Eastern Conference.
But the free fall began the next night at the Capital Centre when Haywoode Workman suffered a groin-muscle pull and joined Walker on the sidelines.
After the two starting guards returned in mid-February and forward John Williams completed the 14-month rehabilitation of his knee, there was cause for optimism.
But the injury jinx quickly spread to starting forward Harvey Grant (tendinitis) and reserve forward Mark Alarie (knee). Grant is playing again, but King, the league's No. 2 scorer, with a 29.5 average, has missed the past four games with a sprained back, and center Charles Jones is nursing a groin-muscle pull.
"We've never really had a chance to show what we can do when everyone is healthy," Walker said.
"I don't know what Wes, [general manager] John Nash or [owner] Abe Pollin are thinking. But I believe we have a nucleus of good, young players. The only two real veterans are myself and Bernard. I'd hate to see us go through another major rebuilding job."
Another point to be considered is whether Unseld believes his Bullets are better than a .500 team, even when completely healthy.
Williams remains a question. Given the benefit of a training camp and a weight program, can he regain his pre-injury form? And Eackles, a late signee, has yet to prove he can fill the scoring void left by shooting guard Jeff Malone.
Even with the marked improvement of power forward Pervis Ellison, scoring points remains a major problem for the Bullets. Typical was Wednesday's loss in Boston. They held the Celtics to 102 points, 11 below their average, and took 33 more shots. But they made only 34 percent and lost by 21.
Because of the depleted squad, second-year forward Tom Hammonds and rookie center Greg Foster have been getting more playing time. But Unseld said his top priority is still to win as many games as possible, and when King and Jones return, they will get their usual minutes.
NOTES: Nash returns from Spain today after scouting trip to assess Stanley Roberts, a 6-11 forward who quit LSU after his sophomore year to play in Europe. Other NBA scouts have given Roberts mixed reviews.