First round is a fight for Ellison

December 08, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY -- With his body slumped backward while seated on a chair, Pervis Ellison resembled a boxer after a grueling, 12-round fight.

Some of his Washington Bullets teammates had showered, dressed and headed for the team bus after Monday's loss in Seattle. Ellison didn't -- or couldn't -- budge.

"I didn't feel a rhythm. I didn't feel comfortable," Ellison said. "I'm just looking forward to Wednesday."

That's tonight, against the Utah Jazz in Game 2 of Ellison's return. After starting the season on the injured list while he recovered from surgery on both knees, Ellison played 26 minutes and got four points and seven rebounds in his season debut.

Afterward, Ellison complained of having heavy legs during the 103-96 loss to the SuperSonics. But he realizes that's just part of readjusting to the rough and rugged NBA that he hadn't been a part of since missing the last 28 games of last season.

"I think, in time, it'll be fine," Ellison said. "[Tonight] I think I'll take a major step up."

In brief flashes, he showed what he might be able to contribute to the team. Twenty-four seconds after entering the game, he grabbed his first rebound. With six more, his output was second on the team behind Tom Gugliotta's 10. He scored his first points early in the second quarter after grabbing an offensive rebound and rolling the ball in. In the third quarter, he posted up on the right block, turned and lofted a 12-foot jump shot that hit only the bottom of the net.

"He'll definitely give us some scoring in the paint, which we need," said Michael Adams.

But the most important element Ellison will give the Bullets is a defensive presence in the middle, something the team hasn't had in its buffet-style defense -- where opponents go through the lane as often as they like.

For eight straight games, opposing teams have shot better than 50 percent against the Bullets, something that must change if Washington wants to improve on last season's 22 wins.

"He gives us another big body to put inside," said assistant coach Robert Reid. "And, while we're not going to get a whole lot now, he'll be able to provide us with some of the shot-blocking and rebounding that we've been missing."

Twice Ellison was able to thwart dunk attempts by the Sonics, one by Shawn Kemp and another by Sam Perkins. Ellison was credited with three of Washington's four blocked shots, not bad for a team on which no other player averages more than one.

What coach Wes Unseld didn't do was play Ellison alongside Kevin Duckworth, a combination the team was hoping to use when it acquired the 7-foot, 300-pound center from the Portland Trail Blazers. Ellison played all his minutes at center, and the foul-hindered Duckworth had five points and three rebounds in 16 minutes.

Against a Seattle team without a legitimate low-post center, the Bullets could get away with that. But Ellison, at 225 pounds physically overmatched at center last season, will get a chance to play alongside Duckworth -- and is looking forward to it.

"Playing power forward I think is going to help my game. It's going to help [Gugliotta's] game, and it's going to help Duck's game," Ellison said before he was activated. "I will be able to free Duck up and do some of the other aspects of his game, like shooting jumpers."

Ellison said that sitting on the sideline had been frustrating -- and educational.

"When you watch from the sideline and see that this team doesn't have a shot-blocker, you know you can go out there and provide that," Ellison said. "Sitting on the bench, I saw places where I can help this team. Now, when I go out there, I realize what my attributes are and what I need to do."

Activating Ellison meant waiving LaBradford Smith, a former first-round pick of the Bullets who was Ellison's college teammate at Louisville. Ellison spoke to Smith before leaving on the road trip.

"He's the type of person who'll be able to handle the decision," Ellison said. "The writing was basically on the wall. Calbert [Cheaney] and Rex [Chapman], those are the two guys who are going to see the most minutes at that position.

"It was a business decision," Ellison added. "He was upset, but he's the kind of guy who'll be picked up and stay in the league."

Meanwhile, Ellison will work his way back to picking up the Bullets, who have lost four straight games and hope to avoid a slide like last December's when they dropped nine in a row.

"The NBA's tough," Ellison said. "It's time for the young guys to realize that you have to win defensively."

BULLETS TONIGHT

Opponent: Utah Jazz

Site: Delta Center, Salt Lake City

Time: 9

TV: none

Radio: WXZL (103.1 FM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: Utah (12-5) has won four straight, including Monday's 103-96 win over the New York Knicks. F Karl Malone (26.1 ppg) is third in the league in scoring, and G John Stockton is the assist leader (12.2 apg). The Bullets are trying to end a four-game losing streak that includes Monday's 103-96 loss in Seattle. Washington was hurt by a season-high 30 turnovers, as Seattle tied its franchise record with 23 steals. G Rex Chapman (18.4 ppg) and F Don MacLean (18.2) are the leading scorers for the Bullets. Washington has not won in Utah since Feb. 20, 1987.

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