Bullets bolster frontcourt with signing of Johnson Ex-Rockets forward was a free agent

September 22, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

With Bernard King and John Williams still physical question marks for the coming season and Mark Alarie recently lost to retirement, the Washington Bullets shored up their frontcourt yesterday by signing free-agent forward Buck Johnson, who played the past six seasons for the Houston Rockets.

Johnson, 28, who will officially be introduced to area media at a Capital Centre news conference this afternoon, also had auditions this month with the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.

The Bulls, however, solved their frontcourt needs last week by obtaining veteran Rodney McCray from the Dallas Mavericks in a three-team deal also involving the Golden State Warriors.

The Knicks, in turn, last week signed small forward Tony Campbell and reportedly are pursuing backup center Eric Leckner, who played in Charlotte last season.

Johnson, a solidly built 6 feet 7 and 200 pounds, started at small forward for the Rockets the past four seasons. A first-round draft pick from Alabama in 1986, he enjoyed his best season in 1989-90, when he averaged 14.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

His statistics dropped dramatically last year when Rockets All-NBA center Hakeem Olajuwon experienced contract problems and head coach Don Chaney was replaced in midseason by Rudy Tomjanovich.

With guards Vernon Maxwell, Kenny Smith and Sleepy Floyd given free rein to shoot the ball when it did not go inside to Olajuwon, Johnson's shots were limited. He averaged 8.6 points and fewer than two rebounds a game and shot a career-low .406 from the field.

The Rockets viewed Johnson as expendable after the rapid improvement last season of Matt Bullard and the drafting this June of Alabama forward Robert Horry.

But general manager John Nash envisions Johnson as a perfect fit for the Bullets' motion offense.

Said Nash: "Buck is versatile. He can play small or power forward, he plays solid defense, runs the floor, is a decent perimeter shooter, and best of all, is in top physical shape."

Nash was obviously alluding to the chronic weight problems that have plagued Williams, who is medically suspended, and veteran swing man Ledell Eackles.

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