Not enough Bullets dress for success

LANDOVER — LANDOVER -- Here's today's fashion review: Harvey Grant, Ledell Eackles, Mark Alarie and LaBradford Smith all look great in their finely tailored suits, almost good enough to appear in the pages of some mail-order catalog.

The trouble for Washington Bullets' head coach Wes Unseld is that they've been spending more time modeling suits on the bench because of injuries than they have playing.


And when you add those four to the already injured Bernard King and the overweight John Williams, the result is that the Bullets offense has looked downright ugly.

"It's not so much the frustration as it is the reality of the situation," said Unseld. "You can't talk about beating teams when six players are in suits."


You also can't talk about beating teams, even expansion units like the Orlando Magic, when you shoot 34 percent as the Bullets did in a depressing 95-82 loss at the Capital Centre last night, but that's a different matter.

The Bullets, who have dropped five straight now after winning their first two games, are hurting, and the situation doesn't appear to be getting better any time soon.

King, Alarie and Smith have been long-term injured, with Smith, the rookie guard from Louisville, the most likely to be ready to play, but even that may take at least another week, and he didn't even have the benefit of training camp conditioning.

The latest medical reports have sidelined Grant, the starting small forward out with tendinitis in his right foot, and Eackles, who supplied a backcourt punch, but has been out with a strained right groin. Both have missed the last two games, and neither will make tonight's trip to Minnesota (8 p.m.; WTOP-AM 1500).

"We weren't very good. We were terrible," said Unseld. "It's not because we didn't try."

"There are five players out there and we certainly miss our key guys," said guard Michael Adams. "We all get our pay checks, so we've got to keep playing hard."

Clearly, the Bullets (2-5) don't lack for effort, particularly on defense. For the second time this week, they held an opponent under 100 points, and the Magic shot a chilly 38 percent from the floor, with no Orlando player hitting even half of his shots.

"We're doing some good things on defense," said center Charles Jones, who had half the Bullets' 10 blocks. "When you hold a team under 100 points in a game, you should win."


But therein lies that offensive rub. The Bullets have not only managed to score fewer than 100 points in three of their last four games, they haven't even scored 90 in those three matches.

"We're just not executing well on offense," said forward Pervis Ellison, in a mild bit of understatement.

The Bullets not only couldn't throw the ball in the basket from the floor, including some of the ugliest fast breaks ever seen, they also didn't make foul shots.

Despite getting to the line 10 more times than the Magic (now 4-2, including two wins over Washington), the Bullets missed 12 of 35 free throws.

"Sometimes, when you shoot, the ball has eyes, and then there are nights like tonight, when you can't make anything," said forward Tom Hammonds, who scored 13 points, but missed six of seven foul shots.

The problem, as was exhibited last night, is that the Bullets aren't getting the easy transition baskets that they got in the first weekend of the season.


When they move across the half-court stripe, Adams, who scored 30 points in another gritty performance, has become the only reliable scoring weapon.

"The two [shooting] guard, the three [small forward] -- the finesse positions were dead," said Unseld.

"When you're playing basketball, there are five guys out there at a time," said Adams. "Somebody has to try and do something and get something going."

One thing is certain: Until some players get healthy, the Bullets will have the NBA's GQ concession, but not a lot of wins.