Bullets lightweights take a pounding Lakers latest to post big numbers inside

December 13, 1992|By Tom Friend | Tom Friend,Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA — INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- At least the Washington Bullets lead the league in something -- stick men.

It is one of the NBA's more rarefied statistics, but the league

actually has calculated that Washington is its most svelte team, with an average weight of 212 pounds.

"That's because they traded John Williams," a Lakers official said Friday night.

Los Angeles was well aware of the Bullets' lack of girth, with its first, second and third option Friday night to lob the ball inside to Sam Perkins and his five-foot-long arms. Perkins is no wide body, but he backed in Pervis Ellison and Tom Gugliotta whenever he (( pleased and accumulated 25 points on 12 of 14 shooting.

"I can't even hit the ocean sometimes," said Perkins, surprised by his numbers.

Lakers center Vlade Divac was a lethal sidekick -- nearly recording a triple-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks -- and Los Angeles also deployed 6-foot-9 A. C. Green as its backup shooting guard.

The result was a roughhouse 118-93 Lakers victory at the Forum, leaving Washington 1-2 on its current five-game trip.

"Of course they went inside on us," coach Wes Unseld said curtly afterward. "We're the lightest team in the league, and we just can't defend the post. We've always had trouble defending the post. We double, we rotate, we run gimmicks. . . . Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't."

An unsettling trend is developing for the Bullets, 7-12 heading into tonight's game in Portland, Ore. Their front line would fare well in a track meet, but opponents prefer to hammer away at their frailties inside the lane. "We don't have a true center," Gugliotta said. "Everyone knows that."

There is little room for them to grow, either. The starting front line of Ellison, Gugliotta and Grant are rails, and only Gugliotta seems to have the capacity or metabolism to get heavier.

"Yeah," said Grant, "Pervis and I aren't going to get fat any time soon."

The worrisome question is how long those three can persevere. Ellison was pounded into submission by both Sacramento and Utah last week, and exited the Kings game with two bloodshot eyes. He was poked in each one, and perhaps should ask Grant to obtain some of his twin brother Horace's protective goggles.

"Pervis couldn't handle those," Harvey Grant said, in reference to his brother's heavy, prescription eyewear. "Pervis is looking ugly, though, isn't he?"

Some three days after the Sacramento incident, Ellison's eyes ,, were still a descriptive shade of crimson,especially near his cornea. The injustice is that no foul was called each time he was slashed in Sacramento, whereas Los Angeles' Worthy got a favorable foul whistle when Ellison inadvertently scratched Worthy's goggles Friday night.

As for rookie Gugliotta, he has already played two-thirds of a college season in just more than a month. So, it is also up in the air as to whether he can last 82 games.

"Can I last? I guess so," Gugliotta said. "I've got to. I can't take a half a year off."

If there is a silver lining in all of this, it comes courtesy of the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls and Bullets are the only teams in the league with no player more than 250 pounds. The difference is Chicago has a player who averages about 250 points, or at least it seems that way, in Michael Jordan.

So, the Bullets might be able to overcome their lack of girth with hot shooting, although this was not the case in Utah and Los Angeles. Their premier scorers, Gugliotta and Grant, were a combined 11-for-34 against the Jazz and 11-for-32 against the Lakers.

"In my opinion, I don't want to blame it on being tired," Gugliotta said.

More accurate is that teams no longer are willing to give him the open 25-footer, reading reports linking him to former Celtics great Larry Bird.

"I tell Tom 'Big Bird' is more like it," Unseld said.

In actuality, Gugliotta has a little Bird in him -- on and, particularly, off the court. He speaks with somewhat of a country drawl and still dresses small-town. Friday night, Gugliotta wore a zip-down V-neck golf shirt, which was last in style in 1966.

It would help Gugliotta if a Bullets shooting guard lent a hand, and Rex Chapman poignantly did so in Utah (32 points on 14 of 20 shooting). But Chapman, recovering from a bad back, still cannot unseat Doug Overton as the starter, largely because Overton is a quick penetrator and passer. "Overton reminds me of Joe Dumars," said Bullets announcer and former shooting guard Phil Chenier.

"What we need, more than scoring from the guards, is to beat teams up and down the court," Grant said. "Any time we play a bigger team, they scout us, we scout them, and they know our weaknesses inside. I think every team we play will try to get the ball down low. . . . We've got to make their big guys tired."

Or turn to Plan B.

"That would be suiting Wes up," said Grant of Unseld, who definitely weighs more than 250.

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