The changing of the guards continued in the Washington Bullets backcourt yesterday when eight-year veteran Darrell Walker was traded to the Detroit Pistons for two second-round draft choices, in 1993 and 1995.
The loss of Walker, 30, the Bullets' best defensive guard and the team's leading rebounder two seasons ago, left coach Wes Unseld wondering who his starting guards would be when the Bullets open their NBA season Nov. 1.
Of the guards on the Bullets roster at the start of the 1989-1990 season, only Ledell Eackles remains. General manager John Nash has created almost a complete turnover in the backcourt in little more than a year on the job.
He swapped high-scoring shooting guard Jeff Malone to the Utah Jazz in June 1990 to acquire forward/center Pervis Ellison from the Sacramento Kings in a three-team deal. This past July, Nash allowed Haywoode Workman, last season's starting point guard, to take a more lucrative offer from Pesaro Scavolini in the Italian Basketball League.
Walker, whose scoring (7.8 points per game) and rebounding (7.0 per game) slipped last season when he missed 11 games with a strained right knee, became expendable in Nash's plans after the Bullets traded their No. 1 draft choice in June to obtain point guard Michael Adams from the Denver Nuggets. Nash then used a lower first-round pick to select guard LaBradford Smith of Louisville.
But Walker's departure was as much a matter of money as the logjam in backcourt. Beginning in March, Walker sought unsuccessfully to have his contract redone.
After winning the All-State Good Hands Award in 1989-90 based on a ratio of rebounds, assists, steals and turnovers, Walker earned $610,000 last season, which put him in the bottom quarter among starting guards.
When Nash balked at renegotiating Walker's contract, which runs through 1993, Walker demanded a trade.
"When it comes to granting contract extensions, I thought I had to give top priority to Harvey Grant," said Nash, of the fast-improving forward who also has sought to renegotiate his contract.
"In Darrell's case, I felt it would be unwise to be paying him a lot more money when he was 33 and 34, and past his prime. Our acquisition of Adams made it necessary to move a guard and Darrell was attractive to the Pistons."
Although Unseld regarded the tough-minded Walker a leader by example, Nash said the Arkansas graduate, who previously played for the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets, enjoyed only one winning season, his rookie year with the Knicks.
Nash said the Bullets lack of scoring from the backcourt last season put an inordinate offensive burden on the frontcourt.
"With Adams running the offense, it gives us a more uptempo style and we should be able to score more points. Darrell gave us solid defense, but we lacked scoring from the perimeter."
But Unseld has lost his best two defensive guards, Walker and Workman, and still considers holdovers Eackles and A. J. English unproven.
"Right now, I can't tell you who might start the season for us at guard," Unseld said. "It's wide-open. I'll be looking for someone to step up -- be it Eackles, English or Smith.
"Naturally, we'll miss Darrell's defense, rebounding and competitive nature. On our team, his toughness stood out."
Reached at his home in Little Rock, Ark., Walker appeared elated.
"I'll be very happy to be the 'third' guard in Detroit behind Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars," he said.
"I'm not going to be another Vinnie Johnson, lighting up the scoreboard, but I feel I'm more versatile. I can play both guard spots for the Pistons and allow Isiah to be the shooting guard.
"I loved the Bullets and enjoyed playing for Unseld, but I felt they weren't willing to compensate me for busting my tail night after night for 35 to 40 minutes a game. I played hard when I could have said, 'Hell, we're not going anywhere and no one will blame me for us losing.'
"[Bullets owner] Abe Pollin made some promises about reworking my contract but didn't keep them. But I'm not bitter. I wanted out, and I'm happy the way things worked out."
Walker will fill a roster spot that opened when Detroit waived guard Vinnie Johnson on Wednesday.
.. .. .. .. .. .. .Avg. Avg. Avg.
Year,.. Team.. .G. Reb. Ast..Pts.
1983-84, N.Y... 82 2.0. 3.5.. 7.9
1984-85, N.Y... 82 3.4. 5.0..12.5
1985-86, N.Y... 81 2.7. 4.2. 10.3
1986-87, Den... 81 4.0. 3.5. 12.2
1987-88, Wash...52 2.4. 1.9.. 6.0
1988-89, Wash.. 79 6.4. 6.3.. 9.0
1989-90, Wash. .81 8.8. 8.2... 9.5
1990-91, Wash. .71 7.0. 6.5... 7.8