Asked what he plans to do about finding a starting center for tonight's game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Capital Centre, Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld said: "Frankly, I don't know."
Even when Pervis Ellison and reserve Charles Jones were healthy, the under-sized Bullets regularly got out-muscled on the boards and in the offensive low post.
Ellison has been sidelined since March 2 with a sprained ligament in his left knee. He was joined on the sidelines Thursday night when Jones tore a ligament in his right knee in the first quarter of the Bullets 117-97 loss to Sacramento.
Jones, a valuable defensive specialist who turns 36 today, underwent a more extensive examination yesterday. It revealed that he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and also suffered cartilage damage, which will ensure that he sits out the remaining 12 games of the season.
This also could mean the end of Jones' career. His three-year contract expires at the end of this season. He earned $870,000 this season.
As a stop-gap measure, the Bullets yesterday signed 6-foot-11 Mark Acres, who was a reserve the past five years for Boston and Orlando.
The Magic, which claimed him in the 1989 expansion draft, released him this fall. The former Oral Roberts star has had 10-day trials with Chicago and Houston this season.
When Jones was carried off the court Thursday, rookie forward Tom Gugliotta became the Bullets' center by default and responded with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
But Unseld said it is doubtful he will use Gugliotta to defend Portland's 6-foot-9, 250-pound Mark Bryant. Thus, Acres, a sturdy 230-pounder known for his physical style, could get a quick baptism as a Bullet tonight.
There is a slim chance Ellison could rejoin the team before the season ends. The fourth-year veteran who was averaging 17.4 points and 8.8 rebounds before his injury, has been undergoing therapy three times a week and said "my knee is feeling a lot better."
But Ellison added: "I still can't move laterally without experiencing pain. It's [being re-activated] not an overnight thing. I'm just hopeful that I can get back before the season ends. You get paid to play. It's that simple."
The Bullets would also like to see Ellison back in uniform, but for different reasons. It would make rivals teams seeking a talented big man more willing to discuss trade possibilities when the season ends.
As general manager John Nash noted, "We'll listen to trade offers about everyone on our team. When you've won only 20 games, there are no untouchables."