Bullets start preseason road show Cheaney heads list of injured


Enough of the twice-a-day pounding that they've delivered on each other over the past week. And enough of small-town atmosphere in West Virginia, where Wal-Mart is one of the anchors in a mall near the team's training site and where Kool-Aid is on the menu of several local restaurants.

For the Washington Bullets, life gets back to normal today, actually in Normal, Ill., on the campus of Illinois State University, where the team will open the preseason against the Milwaukee Bucks at 8:30 p.m.

It's the first of three preseason games against the Bucks for the Bullets, who, over the next 15 days, will play eight games -- all on the road.

Although coach Wes Unseld said, "I don't put a lot of stock in exhibition games, other than glorified practices," the next few weeks may help the team gauge some of its talent.

After a week of practice with a full squad, the Bullets enter the preseason a battered team. Eleven of the 17 players who reported to camp ready to play have missed all or parts of practice sessions. Two veterans, Pervis Ellison and Larry Stewart, came into camp unable to perform -- they still are recovering from off-season surgery (Ellison left camp the day after the veterans reported to continue his rehabilitation in the Washington area).

"You'd like everybody to get well so we can go into preseason with the full complement of players," said Bullets general manager John Nash. "But I think we've had enough. The players have had enough of the running and the drills, and now they're ready to see what it's going to look like when they get on the floor."

Calbert Cheaney, the team's first-round pick, won't make the trip. He is recovering from injuries to both hamstrings that have limited him to two practices in camp. He's hoping to practice with the team tomorrow.

"I'm anxious to see Calbert, obviously, but he hasn't had the benefit of training camp, so it'll be a while before we see him," Nash said. "I'm anxious to see Don MacLean, Rex Chapman and LaBradford Smith. And I also want to see what Kevin [Duckworth] is going to do in real competition."

Duckworth, who came to the Bullets in exchange for Harvey Grant in the off-season, lacked fire during Tuesday's scrimmage, when he scored 10 points, but Nash doesn't appear worried.

"I can remember the first time I went through a preseason with Moses Malone, and we were devastated," said Nash, who was assistant general manager with Philadelphia when the team acquired Malone. "But when the lights went on for real, Moses began to light it up."

Not to say that Duckworth is another Malone, but he gives the team a presence in the middle that has been lacking since Malone left after the 1987-88 season. Charles Jones, Dave Feitl and Mark Acres have done time in the middle since then, so Duckworth -- who replaces the overmatched Ellison at center -- is a huge addition in more ways than one.

The exhibition season also gives several free agents a shot to crack a roster that has 12 guaranteed contracts (and one non-guaranteed contract, 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan). Former UCLA standout Mitchell Butler and former NBA players Kenny Walker, Tito Horford and Lance Blanks will attempt to make an impression.

NOTES: Michael Adams and Tom Gugliotta were named co-captains yesterday. Grant and Ellison were co-captains last year. . . . Muresan, who has an appointment with immigration officials, won't be making this trip, but plans to travel with the team next week. . . . Free agent Chancellor Nichols (strained right hamstring) will not travel, and is not expected to practice for another 10 days. . . . Washington was 3-4 in preseason games last year, winning both of its games against Milwaukee. . . . Training camp resumes at Bowie State tomorrow.

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