EMMITSBURG -- Like horseplayers studying the Daily Racing Form, both Larry Stewart and Kurk Lee carefully assessed their odds of making it in the NBA with various teams and then gambled on the Washington Bullets.
Stewart, a forward from Coppin State, and Lee, a point guard from Towson State who played last season for the New Jersey Nets, are among the free agents in training camp bidding for jobs on the final 12-man roster.
"It's no secret that we have an opening in the backcourt after trading Darrell Walker and another in the frontcourt with [small forward] Bernard King out at least two months after knee surgery," said Bullets general manager John Nash.
"It would appear we need someone to replace King, but the three spot is really Harvey Grant's natural position, so we don't necessarily have to add another small forward. We can also maneuver our other big men. If we keep Stewart, he will make it on merit."
Stewart, a two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, had invitations from the Dallas Mavericks, for whom he also auditioned this summer, and from several European teams. But he decided to return to the
Bullets after impressing the coaching staff at a June mini-camp.
"I like my odds here," said the 6-foot-8 forward who holds Coppin State's all-time rebounding record. "With the injuries to King and forward] Mark Alarie, the Bullets are obviously looking for help up front. And I play the running style that fits Coach [Wes] Unseld's system."
After more than holding his own against free agents from the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks in a round-robin series, Stewart headed for a summer league in Los Angeles where both he and Lee played with Dallas Mavericks hopefuls.
"Stewart showed us in Los Angeles that he is a very instinctive player with a nose for the ball," said Chuck Douglas, the Bullets' scout and film coordinator. "Those are things you can't teach; it's just a natural gift.
"The fact that he can rebound the ball and still be leading the break is another big plus in his favor with the transition game we're trying to install. We sold him on the opportunity he has here with our current injury situation, and he saw it the same way."
Lee, who led Towson State to the East Coast Conference title in 1990 and an NCAA tournament berth, had camp invitations from the Nets and the Mavericks, but jumped at a chance to play near his hometown of Baltimore.
"It's that, and the odds of making it here," said Lee, who also starred at Dunbar High.
"The Nets have at least three point guards in Mookie BlaylockKenny Anderson and Tate George. It's the same in Dallas with Derek Harper, Fat Lever, Brad Davis and [rookie] Mike Iuzzolino. It's a numbers game, and Washington definitely needs someone to back up Michael Adams."
Barring another trade, Nash sees four guard spots are all but guaranteed to Adams, holdover shooting guards Ledell Eackles and A.J. English and rookie LaBradford Smith.
"It's really a wide-open scramble for that fifth guard spot," said Nash. "Lee is competing with David Wingate, Larry Robinson, Tim Legler and Corey Gaines. When the veterans report Friday, we'll be able to judge them better."
Unseld could help relieve the logjam at guard by shifting Eackles up front to small forward where he can use his explosive one-on-one moves. But that is an offensive innovation that has yet to be tested.
In the meantime, both Stewart and Lee are still in the running, and don't bet against them staying the distance.
NOTES: Smith, wearing a light cast on his sprained right ankle, attended yesterday's workout. He will be an observer the balance of camp and will have his ankle re-examined tomorrow )) by team orthopedist Steve Haas. . . . Grant hopes to have his requested contract extension settled soon, but will not raise a fuss in the meantime. "By being mad, I'll only hurt myself," Grant said. "I don't want the young players here to see me upset." . . . Marty Dow, a free-agent center from San Diego State, missed his second straight practice with a hamstring pull.