Gugliotta gets big chance to play at small forward Bullets want to put versatility to use PRO BASKETBALL

October 12, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- One minute he's standing behind the three-point arc in the left corner, demonstrating his long-range shooting ability. The next he's clearing room for himself on the inside, battling for a rebound.

Last year in his rookie season, Tom Gugliotta established himself as Mr. Versatility for the Washington Bullets, on his way to earning a spot on the NBA's first team All-Rookie squad. And as Gugliotta begins his second season, coach Wes Unseld is asking him to expand his role even more.

Although he got a taste of all three front-court positions last season, Gugliotta, at 6 feet 10 and 240 pounds, played the bulk of his minutes at power forward. This season -- if the team's injury situation permits -- Gugliotta should find himself playing a little more at small forward.

"I think I matched up pretty well with players at the 4 spot [power forward], although I don't think I matched up all that well with the centers," Gugliotta said. "Now I think most guys will definitely be quicker than me in the 3 position. Hopefully I'll be able to use my height and strength to overcome it."

Although Unseld would like to try Gugliotta at small forward, injuries may delay the move. When the Bullets acquired Kevin Duckworth, Unseld envisioned a front line of 7-0 Duckworth at center, Gugliotta at small forward and 6-10 Pervis Ellison at power forward. But Ellison's status remains uncertain as he recovers from surgery on both knees.

Gugliotta has good upper-body strength. Unseld is hoping that Gugliotta's size can be an advantage when the Bullets play teams with smaller players at that position, such as 6-5 Kevin Gamble of the Boston Celtics or 6-7 Clarence Weatherspoon of the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Last year they were playing [small forwards] on him so they could stop his outside shot, so I want him to work on his low-post positioning," Unseld said. "You've got to make teams pay when they do that, you've got to take them down low. [Gugliotta] wasn't able to do that."

If that was a flaw of Gugliotta's, it was one of the few he showed last season. Although he appeared to slow down a bit toward the end of the season, Gugliotta started a team-high 81 games (he missed one game with the flu). His 9.8 rebounds led the team and was third among rookies, and his 134 steals were the most on the team as well as for players at his position.

In averaging 14.7 points, he also demonstrated nice range for someone his size. But Gugliotta is looking to improve on his shooting percentage (42.6 percent).

"I've been working on my outside shot, but I also want to post up more so I'll be able to score on different parts of the court," Gugliotta said.

His adjustment can't hurt with his being in camp from the start, which didn't happen last season. Four months of contract negotiations weren't settled until after the preseason schedule had started. Although he joked after a grueling two-hour workout yesterday that there's "no advantage" to reporting to camp on time, he admitted being here will help him.

"Last year I came in just halfway knowing what I was doing, and I was trying to get the offense down in just a matter of days," Gugliotta said. "The first time I suited up with the team was in an exhibition game [he scored 15 points against the Milwaukee Bucks]. Coming in like that was really the hardest part."

NOTES: First-round pick Calbert Cheaney participated during the first portion of the morning practice, but once again he was seated on the side as the session ended and later missed the evening session. He has been experiencing difficulty with his right hamstring and has completed just two full practices since the rookies and free agents reported a week ago. . . . Gheorghe Muresan sat out the last portion of the morning practice with a sore left hamstring. . . . Duckworth turned his left ankle toward the end of last night's practice, but should be able to return to action today.

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