Wes Unseld, who has watched his Washington Bullets lose four straight games since a surprising 2-0 start, has drawn up a shopping list for general manager John Nash, but an active, wide body remains his top priority.
Save for a 105-88 blowout in Orlando by the Magic, which provides the opposition at the Capital Centre tonight, the Bullets have led in the fourth quarter before bowing to Philadelphia, Golden State and, most recently, Detroit.
Their inability to score in a half-court offense during crunch timand the absence of a reliable outside shooter have been major factors in the losses.
A year ago, the Bullets had the option of handing the ball to Bernard King and allowing the explosive forward to create shots on slashing drives or post-up spinning jumpers from the baseline.
But with King sidelined indefinitely after summer arthroscopic knee surgery, the half-court game has turned stagnant.
Playmaker Michael Adams, averaging 27 points, finds rival teams stacking their defenses against him with the game on the line, forcing him to find an open man. But all too often, the open shooter, be it A. J. English, Tom Hammonds or Ledell Eackles, has been unable to deliver the key basket.
"We could solve a lot of these problems if we had a legitimate strong forward who could power his way to the basket," Unseld said.
"We also get worn down defensively by teams that are bigger than us. We need someone to fight off guys like Charles Barkley, Terry Catledge and Dennis Rodman, who like to crash the boards."
The Bullets, of course, thought they had such a player in John Williams, who boasted the body and agility to neutralize most rival forwards. But, for the second straight year, Williams reported for work some 40 pounds overweight, and it is conceivable that he will never play again for Washington.
Pervis Ellison, who has provided consistent scoring (17.1) and rebounding (12.5) is nominally listed as a power forward. But he lacks the bulk to hold his position against the likes of a Kevin McHale, Karl Malone or Buck Williams.
Second-year center/forward Greg Foster has the right body but is still struggling to gain consistency. Harvey Grant and Hammonds are better suited for small forward. Mark Alarie, who subbed at power forward last season, is also recovering from knee surgery.
Washington has been out-rebounded in every game since its opening-night victory in Indiana.
The New York Knicks, seeking another scorer, were reportedly dangling power forward Charles Oakley, a proven rebounder, as trade bait. The Bullets reportedly offered Eackles and draft picks in exchange, but were quickly rebuffed.
NOTES: Orlando has yet to sign first-round draft pick Brian Williams, the 6-foot-8 forward from Arizona. His agent is John Slaughter, who also handles John Williams. Slaughter reportedly rejected a 4-year offer worth $4.8 million.
Opponent: Orlando Magic
Site: Capital Centre, Landover, 7:35
Radio: WTOP (1500 AM)
Outlook: The injury-depleted Bullets have dropped 4 straight since opening the season with 2 victories. Slumping shooting G A. J. English (19-for-53) lost his starting job to David Wingate. F Harvey Grant (foot) and G Ledell Eackles (groin) missed the Pistons game and are listed as questionable. Orlando has lost past 2 after starting 3-0. G Nick Anderson leads team in scoring (20.8), connecting on 58 percent of his shots. Ex-Bullets F Terry Catledge is top rebounder (8.0).