Unseld finally can make some strategic moves HD: Bullets' good health gives coach luxury

December 20, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

The 1991-92 NBA season has passed the first-quarter mark, but Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld said he is just starting to make meaningful decisions concerning his team.

"Before this week," said Unseld, who was preparing for tonight's game in Dallas with the Mavericks, "I didn't have to worry a whole lot about substitutions and matchups. I was mostly just worried about having enough guys in uniform."

But since the start of this four-game road trip through Texas and concluding in Denver tomorrow night, Unseld finally has almost all the players who concluded training camp in October at his disposal.

After injuries to key players forced him to use more than a dozen different starting lineups, Unseld now can rely on a backcourt of Michael Adams and David Wingate, and a front line of Harvey Grant, Pervis Ellison and Larry Stewart, with Tom Hammonds, A.J. English and Charles Jones as his principal reserves.

With these eight playing the bulk of the minutes, the Bullets (7-17) pushed Houston to the limit before losing, 100-97, and rebounded Wednesday night to beat the San Antonio Spurs, 96-93.

"Now I finally get to make decisions about who can best defend this or that guard or forward, who will give me the best offense and a lot of other strategic things I couldn't do because we just didn't have the numbers," said Unseld.

As a case in point, Unseld used trapping defenses which forced San Antonio's makeshift point guards into a number of early turnovers, allowing the Bullets to build a big cushion and withstand the Spurs' late rally.

Adams, who was challenging Michael Jordan for the NBA scoring lead before first injuring his hand, Dec. 16, regained his shooting touch against the Spurs, scoring 35 points, including six three-point shots.

With Adams hitting from long range, it opened up the middle for drives by Wingate, Stewart and Grant, who was back in the starting lineup after missing three games last week with a sore back.

But Grant could be missing again tonight. Rod Thorn, the NBA's vice president of operations, was studying films of Grant's fourth-quarter fight with Spurs center David Robinson that led to both players being ejected.

In keeping with the league's hard-line policy toward fighting, it is expected both will be fined and suspended for at least one game. But as of last night, no decision had been reached.

The Bullets also were awaiting the latest medical report on rookie guard LaBradford Smith, who had his sore left ankle examined yesterday by University of Louisville team doctor Rudy Ellis. Smith, on the injured list, has made a brief appearance in only one game.

Bullets tonight

Opponents: Dallas Mavericks

Site: Reunion Arena, Dallas, 8:30

TV: Channel 20

Radio: WTOP (1500 AM)

Outlook: The Bullets ended an 8-game losing streak Wednesday night by beating the Spurs, 96-93, behind Michael Adams' 35 points and 7 assists. Washington lost both games against Dallas last season. The Mavericks have remained competitive despite losing F Roy Tarpley before the season after his third drug violation. Starting guards Rolando Blackman (21.5) and Derek Harper (19.4) have carried team offense. F Terry Davis, acquired as a free agent, leads the team in rebounding (9.7). G Fat Lever (13.8 points) has missed his past 7 games with a bruised left knee and will also miss tonight's game. F.

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