. . . vets are needed for Bullets' show

April 20, 1995|By PHIL JACKSON

LANDOVER -- The Washington Bullets should stop trying to build a team if, indeed, that's what they've been attempting to do since the dawning of the last decade of the century and millenium.

The organization is not up to the task, obviously, if one of the standard definitions of the word team is used: a group of people working together in a coordinated effort.

Oh, the Bullets can fool you from time to time, like last night when they stuck it to the Orlando Magic, 123-117, the club with the best record (56-24) in the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

By the way, the Magic was missing Shaquille O'Neal (sore knee), who averages 30 points, 11 rebounds and a 9.9 on the intimidation scale.

The victory gave Washington another coveted 20-win season when it appeared all hope was lost as it lost 13 in a row and 15 of 16 in the month between mid-March and mid-April. The 20-60 record (with two games to play) is in keeping with the records in the '90s: 31-51, 30-52, 25-57, 22-60, 24-58.

No doubt you've noticed things seem to be worsening, but only in the standings.

Last night's contest drew 18,756 spectators, a sellout for the 10th straight game and No. 29 for the season. Another club mark sees the Bullets averaging 17,000 fans per USAir Arena game.

Experts have been asking before during and after each of the Washington's 40 home games why people have been showing up in such staggering numbers. It's not as if the Bullets are invincible at home, like say Orlando, which is 38-2 at home. They're only 12-28.

Victory apparently isn't as important to the local constabulary as one might think, so damn the W's and let's give the ticket buyers what they want. A show.

With only one team carrying a worse record than the Bullets -- take a bow Los Angeles Clippers (16-64) -- Washington figures to have a lot of balls working for it come lottery draft day. No matter how lucky the club gets, it should harbor no thoughts of picking some collegian, even if his name is Joe Smith from over in College Park.

A show, that's what's selling at USAir and that means showmen. Up I-95 a ways, they say about the only things a majority of the New Jersey Nets players agree on is that Derrick Coleman doesn't seem to care what happens and the man with the ball all the time, Kenny Anderson, is selfish.

Still, Anderson's so exciting when he comes wheeling downcourt with not the slightest inkling of what he's going to do, he'd fit right in with the Bullets circus. Picture it, Kenny throwing those blind, behind-the-back shots (not passes) as Chris Webber comes roaring in from the other side looking to grab a miss on the fly and crash it down through the hoop.

Chris might have problems keeping tabs on the player he's supposed to be guarding and his turnovers are often too plentiful, but if it's offensive stats you want, Chris is your guy.

He's a constant threat for a triple-double these days now that he's playing the point forward on the wing and picking up assists galore with bullet-like baseball passes to his mates. Double figures in points and rebounds are almost a given.

Another player the Bullets should probably do everything they can to add to their mix is Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. When the former Chris Jackson heats up, he can chuck up as many successful three-pointers in a minute as Larry Bird used to do when he was winning the distance-shooting event at NBA All-Star games.

Webber, Anderson, Abdul-Rauf and Juwan Howard doing all the necessary things to aid and abet while on occasion coming up with enough jazzy stuff to keep Webber pushing.

A center? Who cares? How many 7-footers can really play the game, a half-dozen?

The Bullets should content themselves with Gheorghe Muresan, not only because he's an attraction at 7-7 and keep all Cluj University alumni happy but because Bullets fans truly love the guy. Gheorghe has been known to go bonkers from time to time, too, blocking a half-dozen shots (twice), taking Muggsy Bogues to the hole and jamming over him and scoring 30 points against the Boston Celtics in a 38-minute stint April 9.

Calbert Cheaney is an ideal sixth man, coming off the bench to either bomb as an outside man or to slash across the key without fear for life or limb as a small forward. There are other guys on the current cast who might be useful but only if they come up with a little more showmanship than they've shown to date.

It's conceivable a cast like this could be as entertaining as a Bullets edition that once went from 36-46 to 57-25 the very next season in Baltimore eons ago and performed under the aliases Earl the Pearl, Honeycomb, Murph, 3-W, Shoot Jack and Chink. Shakespeare was right, the show's the thing.

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