BOWIE -- In his first two seasons with the Washington Bullets, Calbert Cheaney posted fairly impressive numbers. As a rookie, he averaged 12.0 points, mostly coming off the bench; in his second season, he boosted that to 16.6 points, mostly in a starting role.
Yet, Cheaney says that he played to his potential only in flashes and that he was unable to stay aggressive night in and night out.
"No, I wasn't satisfied," he said. "I wanted to become more assertive. And I use getting to the free-throw line as a base of being aggressive."
The numbers back him up. Cheaney took 2.5 free throws a game as a rookie and 2.7 last season. This season, he is at 5.4.
But his impact this season goes beyond numbers. From shouting court directions, to shouting displeasure at a teammate for a bad pass, to making his jumper consistently, Cheaney is playing like someone ready for a standout season.
"I can't honestly say [there's a difference from last year] other than that at game time he appears to be more assertive," said Bullets coach Jim Lynam, whose primary complaint about Cheaney a year ago was his inability to draw fouls. "I think he has had a very good stretch, and it goes all the way back to the preseason."
The Bullets expect a big season from Cheaney. That's why they gave him the shooting guard position by trading Rex Chapman on draft night.
"Of course, you're going to feel more responsibility," Cheaney said about the deal. "I know I can drive the ball. I know I can get to the basket. I just wanted to come out this season and do the best I can at the position and put up numbers every night."
Cheaney scored 19 in the first half Friday and appeared on his way to breaking his career high of 32 before second-half foul trouble limited him to 22.
"He was on his way to a monster," Lynam said. "He's putting it on the floor a little bit more to shorten his distance, and he's penetrating inside the 15-foot area, which I think should be a big part of his game."
That's what made Cheaney, who is 6 feet 7, so dangerous at Indiana, where he earned Associated Press and Sports Illustrated College Player of the Year his senior season and left school as the all-time leading Big Ten scorer.
"I'm starting to see those flashes like when he was at Indiana, where he has that confidence on the floor, where he knows that when we need a basket that he'll take it to the hole," said teammate Juwan Howard, who played against Cheaney for Michigan. "He was a tough man at Indiana. He was precise with his shots. He had a great season last year, and now he's showing that he has continued to improve."
NOTES: Rasheed Wallace sprained his right ankle while driving at practice but is expected to play tonight. . . . Ed Stokes, acquired with Jeff Webster from the Heat in the Chapman trade, has been working out for the Bullets' staff this week.
1'Date Opponent .. .. Pts .. Reb .. Ast
11/3 Phila. . .. .. 19 ... . 8 .. . 3
11/4 Detroit ... .. 12 ... . 4 .. . 6
11/6 Orlando ... .. 13 ... . 2 .. . 2
11/8 Charlotte . .. 22 ... . 6 .. . 1
11/10 New York . .. 22 ... . 1 .. . 2
Tot. .. .. .. ... 17.6 ... 4.2 .. 2.8
Opponent: Philadelphia 76ers
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
TV/Radio: HTS/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)
Outlook: This is a rematch of the season opener, a 105-103 win by the 76ers. G Jerry Stackhouse scored 27 points in that game, and his 24.3 ppg going into last night's game against Seattle ranked ninth in the league. Washington is hoping to rebound from Friday's 110-109 loss to the New York Knicks. The Bullets have won two of three home games this season. Two Washington players are among league statistical leaders: C Gheorghe Muresan, 63.8 field-goal percentage (sixth); and G Robert Pack, 9.6 apg (second).