As Cheaney goes, so go the Bullets on offense Win streak coincides with improved output

March 08, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

BOWIE -- When Calbert Cheaney's game is going well, Washington Bullets coach Jim Lynam usually isn't too concerned about his team's offense. That's because Cheaney is hitting his outside shot, going strong to the basket and getting to the free-throw line.

And when things aren't going well for Cheaney, it's easy to read it in his body language.

"There's not a player in this league who doesn't go through a tough stretch," Lynam said. "When it happens to Calbert, he beats on himself. He takes it a tad too personal."

Too personally to a point where Cheaney goes into a shell on the court, often taking himself completely out of games. And a reclusive Cheaney is not the player the Bullets need as they make a playoff run over the final 22 games of the season.

Lynam said it's no coincidence that the Bullets have won three straight with Cheaney picking up his game. In the streak, Cheaney is averaging 22.3 points and shooting 53.0 percent from the field.

"I look at it as me going out and trying to make things happen," Cheaney said. "If I play well, I don't know if things will necessarily go well for my team, but they will go well for myself."

They do go well for the team. In the 13 games that Cheaney has scored more than 20 points this season, the Bullets have a 9-4 record and a much-needed additional offensive weapon.

"Calbert is a big part of us being an effective offense," Lynam said. "With Gheorghe [Muresan] and Juwan [Howard] there about every night, you need your perimeter people to make the shots.

"Calbert's a key from the outside and he's played extremely well the last three games, and that's made a difference," Lynam added. "But at times, Calbert is almost overly conscientious. [Indiana Pacers guard] Reggie Miller was five of 20 [on Wednesday]. You think he's beating himself up. No. He's too high level a player."

And Lynam thinks Cheaney can reach that level of confidence of a player if only he relaxes more. And Cheaney agrees.

"I'm my own worst critic, and I have to stop doing that," Cheaney said. "I know I can play this game and I know I can play well when my confidence is up."

What Lynam wants to see is Cheaney not withdrawing totally when things aren't going his way on the court.

"He has to approach his problems with a little bit of a plan, and to me sometimes Calbert doesn't do that," Lynam said. "The plan is to get yourself some easier shots. Easier shots such as getting to the basket and getting to the free-throw line, so you're not predicated on making jump shots during those tough stretches."

Cheaney said he has gotten the message. And instead of beating on himself, he plans to enjoy his first playoff race since coming to the league.

"I'm just relaxing and having fun because any time you worry about your shot or doing other things, you just play tentative," Cheaney said. "To be in a playoff race at this point is fun. It's something we were planning on when the season started. And I think that we can get there."

Bullets tonight

Opponent: Los Angeles Clippers

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 7: 30

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: This is the third game of a five-game eastern trip for the Clippers, who lost at Boston on Wednesday. The Clippers on Tuesday had one of their most impressive efforts of the season in a win over the New York Knicks. F Loy Vaught (16.7 ppg) and C/F Brian Williams (16.4) are the top scorers for the Clippers. The Bullets, who have a three-game winning streak, beat the Clippers in their only meeting earlier this season.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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