Looking for a lift, Unseld to start Johnson, use Chapman off bench

January 22, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

BOWIE -- Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld, seeking to correct his team's sputtering starts and third-period letdowns on both ends of the floor, yesterday benched shooting guard Rex Chapman in favor of defensive-minded Buck Johnson.

Unseld shuffled his lineup in preparation for tonight's Capital Centre contest with the Phoenix Suns, who boast the NBA's best record (25-8) and one of the league's most dynamic players in forward Charles Barkley, coming off a one-game suspension.

"I'm just trying to find ways to get us off to better starts and avoid second-half breakdowns," Unseld said before yesterday's decision to release rehabilitating forward Bernard King.

In starting Johnson, Unseld hopes to keep the Suns' aggressive Dan Majerle from gaining easy access to the basket. Chapman's soft defense has been a sore point with the coaching staff all season.

The athletic guard could prove more useful as a sixth man off the bench, helping to avert the long scoring droughts that have marked the Bullets' play all season.

"We need a consistent scorer on our second unit," said starting forward Harvey Grant. "Last year, we had both A. J. English and Ledell Eackles coming off the bench, and we've missed that scoring lift this season."

Offensively, Johnson will swing with Grant, who can score outside. Johnson was averaging 11 minutes and 3.8 points.

"I'm just looking forward to getting some quality minutes," said Johnson, who was acquired as a free agent in September after playing six years in Houston.

"When you're playing as few minutes as I was, you're too conscious of trying to not mess up. The more you play, the more your confidence grows."

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