Bullets, prepared to cut guards, search for assistance at forward position


One or more free-agent guards could be released today, when the injury-depleted Washington Bullets begin a three-day break in their preseason schedule. But coach Wes Unseld is more concerned with his frontcourt, currently operating without all five veteran forwards.

Unseld is expected to meet today with general manager John Nash to discuss roster cuts, but shoring up the frontcourt could be another prime topic.

Before training camp began Oct. 4, the Bullets had lost scoring leader Bernard King and reserve forward Mark Alarie, who both required arthroscopic knee surgery.

Then, for the second straight year, John Williams, the team's most versatile forward, boycotted training camp in a salary dispute. Williams is awaiting an arbitration hearing.

This left Harvey Grant and Tom Hammonds as the only veteran forwards in camp. An ankle sprain has kept Grant sidelined through the first six games, and a virus has benched Hammonds the past two games, including last night's contest against the Chicago Bulls in Knoxville, Tenn.

The injuries have given more playing time to free-agent forwards Larry Stewart of Coppin State and Albert King, a former Maryland star trying to return to the NBA after a two-year absence.

Stewart has been the most pleasant surprise, fitting in with Unseld's uptempo offense and averaging 15 points through the first five games. But even more impressive has been the 6-foot-8 forward's consistent rebounding (9.0 rpg), placing him second to center Pervis Ellison.

"As a team, our rebounding has been atrocious," said Unseld. "Aside from Ellison and Stewart, none of the big guys has done the job. [Point guard] Michael Adams is our next-best rebounder, and he's the smallest guy on the team."

Eight guards are on the roster, not counting top draft pick LaBradford Smith, who has missed the preseason with a badly sprained ankle.

Kurk Lee of Towson State, who played with the New Jersey Nets last season, and Corey Gaines have played the most at backup point guard, but there is no certainty either will be with the team when the season opens Nov. 1.

A.J. English, starting his second season, appears to have won the starting shooting guard spot by default. Newly acquired David Wingate also is getting work at the position.

Poorly conditioned shooting guard Ledell Eackles is getting a look at small forward.

The most vulnerable players appear to be holdover guard Larry Robinson, free-agent guard Tim Legler and free-agent center/forward Cedric Lewis of Maryland.

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