Bullets look to Chapman, maybe Gaze

February 28, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld won't admit to the frustration of the season, but his actions were revealing after being asked again to explain a recent loss.

First there was the pained expression on his face, followed by his tossing that night's stat sheet aside as he began to answer questions.

"I'm not frustrated," Unseld said to a question he's been asked many times this season. "It's not these guys' fault they're playing out of position."

Of late for the Bullets, who have lost six straight and 10 of 11, the out-of-position problem has been at shooting guard, where injuries to Calbert Cheaney and Rex Chapman have left a big void.

Mitchell Butler has filled in, and he scored a season-high 22 points in Saturday's 115-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. But the rookie from UCLA has a slashing style and is not an outside threat -- leaving the Bullets with a non-shooter at the shooting guard position.

Instead of seeking an exemption to place Cheaney on the injured list -- and possibly sign a shooting guard to a 10-day contract -- general manager John Nash is hoping Chapman might be available this week. Chapman, who has been out since dislocating his right ankle Jan. 17, began working out with the team on Feb. 17 and could be activated for Thursday's game against Atlanta.

"Fortunately, some of our injured players are coming along sooner than expected," Nash said when asked about the Cheaney exemption. "We're hoping [Chapman] will be ready [Thursday]."

Or perhaps the Bullets may work out a deal to entice Andrew Gaze, a former Seton Hall star, to join the team. The perimeter shooting of Gaze, whose season in the Australian professional league begins April 9, has long held Nash's interest.

"Basically, when Rex got injured we would have signed him immediately except we didn't have a work visa," Nash said. "He's a world-class shooter. He's already had two preseason games, and has scored 53 and 47 points in those games. If it all falls in place, he could be here in just over a week."

Should Gaze risk his lofty status as the best player in Australia and report to the Bullets, he would be the fourth player to sign a 10-day contract with the team this season. Ron Anderson and Manute Bol are the team's most recent 10-day signees.

"It seems like each time we go out, we have new and different faces," said forward Don MacLean, who missed six games recently with a hip pointer.

Washington's record is 16-39 -- identical to last year's through 55 games. With two months to go, it would be easy to pack it in. But the Bullets say they have too much pride for that.

"You've got a long way to go," Tom Gugliotta said last week. "And there's no way we can give up now."

NOTES: Going against a Milwaukee team with 6-foot-11 rookie Vin Baker at center, Washington's four centers totaled two points and five rebounds. Pervis Ellison (two points, 15 minutes), Gheorghe Muresan (zero points, 15 minutes), Kevin Duckworth (zero points, 18 minutes) and Bol (zero points, one minute) were 1-for-7 from the field. . . . MacLean's 30 points marked just the fifth time a Washington frontcourt player has reached that mark this season. . . . Washington's bench was outscored 40-12.

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