Strength not strong suit for Cheaney Small forwards are plenty big for rookie

November 17, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

Through his first five games as a Washington Bullet, Calbert Cheaney has shown glimpses of the quickness and smooth jump shot that helped him win numerous College Player of the Year awards as a senior at Indiana.

But last week, against New York Knicks forward Anthony Mason, 6 feet 7, 250 pounds, Cheaney attempted to add something new to his repertoire: brute force.

It turned out to be a bad move, as Cheaney, 6-7, 215 pounds, found out after picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter of last Wednesday's loss to the Knicks. He sat down the rest of the night.

"I was trying to match strength with him -- for what reason, I don't know," said Cheaney, who was scoreless in nine minutes against the Knicks. "I have to learn how to use my feet, as opposed to matching somebody's strength."

It's all part of the learning experience for Cheaney, the Bullets' first-round pick who is making his first trip through the NBA. A starter at small forward in his first five games, Cheaney was on the bench at the start of Friday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Don MacLean started in a move that coach Wes Unseld said could last for "just one night," but it was unclear yesterday who would start tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.

"You go back to the old saying that sometimes the best defense is a good offense," Unseld said. "Well, he's running into that because teams are throwing good offenses at him. He's having problems making the adjustments defensively, but that has nothing to do with the way he's been playing, because I think he's playing fine.

"Part of it is a size problem," Unseld added. "But a lot of people play this game undersized. You just have to learn how to play it, and he's learning."

He's learning the hard way, matching up against the likes of Mason and the Boston Celtics' Xavier McDaniel, two of the most physical small forwards in the league.

"The adjustment is size, and if I can get used to playing a guy who's bigger than me, then I'll be OK," Cheaney said. "I'm just not used to it now. You see a guy like me and you think you're going to take me down into the post. I have to improvise by using my quickness."

The adjustment Cheaney is going through now is what MacLean faced last season, when he averaged 6.6 points playing limited minutes. MacLean said he went into the off-season looking mainly to improve his strength, and the results are a 16.2 scoring average that's second on the team to Tom Gugliotta (17.0).

"I don't know if I'm going to get any bigger," said Cheaney, who is averaging 8.8 points. "But as far as getting stronger, I'll probably have to do that."

When Cheaney came off the bench on Friday against Philadelphia, he played most of his 13 minutes at shooting guard. He was attractive coming out of college because of his ability to play two positions. But 76ers coach Fred Carter, who has seen Cheaney twice during the regular season and once during the preseason, said his future will be at small forward.

"It's almost that he was born and bred to be a small forward -- his skills fit the small forward's game," Carter said. "Everybody has to adjust. He has to adjust at small forward just like Shawn Bradley has to adjust to center. Cheaney's a very talented and well-schooled player who'll be one of the top small forwards in the game."

NOTES: The Bullets activated 7-7 C Gheorghe Muresan yesterday. Muresan was placed on the injured list at the start of the season after coming down with the chickenpox. A roster spot was created by placing Tito Horford on waivers . . . Through five games, four different players have led the team in scoring, with MacLean the only one to do it twice. . . . Gugliotta led the team in rebounding the first three games, but Kenny Walker, playing increased minutes, has come through with 14 and 11 rebounds the past two games to lead the Bullets.

THINK BIG

During his rookie season, the Bullets' Calbert Cheaney, 6 feet 7, 215 pounds, will see a lot of taller and wider bodies playing "small" forward in the NBA:

Player, team ..... ...... Ht. .... Wt.

Charles Barkley, Pho. ... 6-6 .... 252

C. Weatherspoon, Phi. ... 6-7 .... 240

Robert Horry, Hou. ...... 6-10 ... 220

Danny Manning, LAC ...... 6-10 ... 234

Billy Owens, G.S. ....... 6-9 .... 220

Chuck Person, Minn. ..... 6-8 .... 225

Detlef Schrempf, Sea. ... 6-10 ... 230

James Worthy, LAL ....... 6-9 .... 225

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