The NBA requires its teams to have at least eight players in uniform for a game, and the injury-riddled Washington Bullets, on their just-concluded road trip, came frighteningly close to not meeting the minimum.
Coach Wes Unseld has been reduced to counting heads. He had only nine players on hand for his team's most recent losses, against the Seattle SuperSonics and Utah Jazz. But the updated medical report looks a bit more positive tonight when the Bullets return home to entertain the Detroit Pistons.
Both center Pervis Ellison, who has missed the past two games with a balky right knee, and point guard Michael Adams, who has sat out three of the past four with a dislocated middle finger on his left (non-shooting) hand, are listed as probable.
There is also a chance that reserve forward Tom Hammonds, who has been on the injured list since Nov. 19 with a groin pull, could be reactivated if he runs without pain during a morning shoot-around at the Capital Centre today.
Adams, Hammonds and LaBradford Smith, the rookie guard who has played in only one game because of a severe ankle sprain, will be examined by team orthopedist Steve Haas before the game tonight.
If Hammonds returns to action, someone must take his place on the injured list to maintain the maximum 12-man roster.
With all their problems, the Bullets began their Western swing by beating the Los Angeles Clippers and lost four-point and one-point decisions to the Portland Trail Blazers and SuperSonics, respectively, before being routed by the Jazz on Wednesday night.
Losing Adams and Ellison from their starting lineup costs the Bullets a total of 44 points, not to mention their leading playmaker and rebounder. But since opening night, Unseld has also been without last year's scoring leader, Bernard King, recuperating from arthroscopic knee surgery, and all-purpose forward John Williams, again suspended for being overweight.
"I've never experienced a season like this," said general manager John Nash, who spent more than a decade in the Philadelphia 76ers front office before moving to Washington last year. "This last trip, we had more than two-thirds of our payroll on the sidelines."
Opponent: Detroit Pistons
Site: Capital Centre, Landover, 7:35
Radio: WTOP (1500 AM)
Outlook: This is the first home game in 2 weeks for the Bullets, who have lost 4 of their past 5 road contests. They played the last 2 without their top 2 scorers: G Michael Adams (dislocated finger) and C Pervis Ellison (sore knee). Both are listed as probable tonight. F Harvey Grant ended a shooting slump to score 55 points in the past 2 games and raise his average to 18.2. Rookie F Larry Stewart is averaging 11.4 points. The Pistons had lost 7 of 10 before last night's home game against Cleveland and have had trouble scoring since trimming C James Edwards and G Vinnie Johnson. Guards Isiah Thomas (20.5) and Joe Dumars (16.7) pace the offense. William Bedford has replaced Bill Laimbeer as the starting center. Detroit won the first meeting this season, 85-79, Nov. 10 in Auburn Hills, Mich.