Smith, Bullets top pick, hurt, remains unsigned Guard fails physical, will miss preseason

September 21, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

It is still 10 days to the opening of training camp, but Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld already finds himself minus forwards Bernard King and Mark Alarie and guard LaBradford Smith, the team's No. 1 draft pick from Louisville.

King, 34, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 6, is not expected back before mid-December. Yesterday, the third-team All-NBA selection was joined on the sidelines by Alarie, who faces a similar operation on his left knee in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, and Smith, who will miss the entire preseason schedule with a severe ankle sprain.

Smith's agents, Tony Dutt of Houston and James Bryant of Enid, Okla., prematurely announced Thursday that the 6-foot-3 guard, who was the 17th player selected in the June draft, had agreed to a four-year contract worth $3.36 million. It would start at $620,000 this season and increase to $1 million in the final year.

Bullets general manager John Nash said yesterday that "we have only the framework" for a contract and that the offer was contingent on Smith's passing a preseason physical.

Smith flunked the examination by team othopedist Steve Haas in Washington yesterday. Smith had sprained his ankle working out in Houston this week with John Turner, a former Georgetown and Phillips College forward who is also represented by Bryant ++ and Dutt and signed recently with the Houston Rockets.

Haas put Smith's ankle in a cast and will re-examine him next week.

"As a result of this injury, the Bullets do not plan to execute the contract until such time Smith has recovered," Nash said.

Earlier in the day, Nash had made room in his salary cap to sign Smith by releasing third-year guard Byron Irvin, whose $250,000 contract was not guaranteed.

Smith's impressive showing at the Bullets' rookie-free agent camp in June and later in competition against rookie-dominated teams from Detroit, Indiana and New Jersey, led to a major reshuffling in the backcourt.

Last year's starting duo of Darrell Walker and Haywoode Workman is gone. Walker was traded to the Detroit Pistons this )) month for two second-round picks, and Workman, a free agent, chose to play in Italy.

Irvin, a former University of Missouri star whose contract was not guaranteed, is the latest backcourt casualty.

Acquired from the Sacramento Kings last October in exchange for Steve Colter, Irvin saw scant action in Washington, usually the last guard off the bench in Unseld's rotation. He appeared in only 33 games, averaging 5.2 points.

The rapid turnover has left Unseld with only five guards -- Michael Adams, acquired in a June trade with the Denver Nuggets, Ledell Eackles, A.J. English, Smith and Larry Robinson, a free agent who appeared in 12 games with the Bullets last season.

"As of now, Robinson will be fighting for that fifth guard spot with free agents we plan to invite to training camp," said Nash. "We had to make changes after winning only 30 games last season, and we could still make some more moves."

When camp opens, Unseld will also be without two veteran forwards -- Bernard King and Alarie.

King, an All-Star selection who led the Bullets in scoring (28.4 ppg), underwent knee surgery this month and is expected to be sidelined until mid-December.

Alarie, a five-year veteran, will have surgery performed on a left knee that caused him to miss the final 27 games last season. His scoring average slipped to 5.8 points.

After two months of complete rest this summer, the former Duke All-American was still experiencing pain. He was examined by team orthopedist Steve Haas and made subsequent visits to Dr. Frank Barrett at Duke Hospital and Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham.

"None of the doctors could find the cause of Mark's continued pain," said Nash, "but they all agreed he should have surgery."

Alarie, who was a key Bullets reserve in the 1989-90 season, chose Andrews to perform the operation.

"We weren't counting on Mark being ready for camp, because we felt this [surgery] could happen," Nash said. "It will give some of our young forwards, like Tom Hammonds and Greg Foster, a chance to step forward."

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