Bullets' biggest need is someone to clog the middle the way their coach once did

The Inside Stuff

November 10, 1992|By Bill Tanton

The Washington Bullets, back on the road tonight in Cleveland, had to play only two games -- both losses -- for everyone to see what they lack.

What they need is for the big guy at the end of the bench -- coach Wes Unseld -- to be able to turn the clock back 15 or 20 years.

The Bullets once again are getting killed off the boards. They have a bunch of perimeter shooters.

The kind of player Unseld was when he was the first draft pick of the Baltimore Bullets in 1968 would solve the present team's problems.

The current No. 1 draft pick, Tom Gugliotta, has been impressive in his first two games, especially in his NBA debut last Friday in Charlotte (20 points, seven assists, six rebounds). But Gugliotta, at 6 feet 10, is a power forward.

When Unseld filled the middle, the Bullets not only won the NBA title in '78 but had 10 winning seasons and made 12 straight playoff appearances. The Bullets haven't had a winning season since '86-'87.

Washington won't have an easy time tonight. Cleveland whipped Charlotte, 127-107, on Sunday as 7-foot center Brad Daugherty made nine of his first 10 shots. He wound up with 25 points.

One pleasant surprise for the Bullets is LaBradford Smith. With 28 points in the two games, he looks much improved.

* Maryland's trip to Florida State last weekend was not a wasted one, despite the 69-21 shellacking the Terps took.

With his whole staff in Florida for the game, Maryland coach Mark Duffner took advantage of a good recruiting opportunity. He had several coaches fan out and scout junior college and high school games Friday in that fertile recruiting area.

It's clear by now the only hope for 2-8 Maryland is a couple of good recruiting years. I wonder, though, why a top prospect in Florida would come here when three of the country's top 11 teams are situated in his home state -- No. 1 Miami, No. 5 Florida State, No. 11 Florida.

* Florida State's Charlie Ward probably is, as many claim, the best college athlete in the country. Who else could quarterback the No. 5 football team in the nation and play point guard for an ACC basketball team?

What's amazing about Ward is that, despite his accomplishments (including passing for 395 yards against Maryland), he is not a great thrower. He does not even read defenses all that well. He spends too much time with basketball for that. Somehow, though, Ward finds time to serve as vice president of his class.

* Al Bumbry, one of the most popular Orioles players ever ('72-'84), has been invited back to be first-base coach for the Red Sox in '93. He'll probably accept, which is too bad.

Bumbry, who still makes his home in Baltimore County, should be with the Orioles. "Someday," Al said, "I'd like to get back here."

I reminded Bumbry that the O's have a coaching vacancy now with the dismissal of Cal Ripken Sr. Replied Al: "No, sir, I don't want to coach third base. I'm not ready for that."

As for the charge that Cal Sr. was a loner in the clubhouse, allegedly because of lingering bitterness over his firing as manager in '88, Bumbry shrugged and said: "I wasn't here so I really can't say, but Cal always did keep to himself in the clubhouse."

* People are asking when the Orioles will announce the names of players they'll expose in the National League expansion draft a week from today. The answer: never.

Even after Florida and Colorado have finished drafting, it would be dumb for the O's to reveal who else had been left unprotected. They won't want the players themselves to know.

* Ever heard of a professional sports team drawing fewer people for a free-of-charge game than for a game with regular admission prices?

It just happened right here in good ol' Balmer.

The Spirit, the new entry in the National Professional Soccer League, opened the doors for an exhibition game with Harrisburg on Nov. 1 and 3,400 people walked in.

Last Saturday night, six days later, Baltimore played its league home opener at the Arena and beat Chicago. With tickets priced from $4 to $13, the paid crowd was 6,471. Nobody complained, either. The new league -- which looks a lot like the old league -- is a crowd-pleaser.

* Speaking of ticket prices, if you plan to attend the Charm City/Big Apple Basketball Challenge at the Arena on Dec. 8, you would be smart to get your tickets now. They're $5 apiece through Dec. 3; after that, $9. Great high school teams from New York and Baltimore will be competing including our Dunbar (No. 4 in the nation preseason), Southern and Lake Clifton.

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