BOWIE — BOWIE -- Last season, the Washington Bullets never played a game with the lineup they anticipated having. After struggling through the first five games of this season, the Bullets get to do that tonight.
Gheorghe Muresan is back. After missing the first five games because of a hip flexor injury, the 7-foot-7 center has been activated off the injured list and will start in tonight's game against the Detroit Pistons.
"There is no pain," Muresan said yesterday, after another impressive practice. "Yes, I'm ready for a few minutes."
Asked whether he would start, Muresan said, "Ask Jimmy." He was referring to coach Jim Lynam, who will not hesitate to put Muresan into the starting lineup -- although it will be in a limited role.
Lynam intends to start Muresan and let him play the first six minutes before resting him, and will continue that pattern the entire game.
"He's really looked good from the first day he's taken the court," said Lynam of Muresan, who began practicing last week. "Your concern is conditioning. But in terms of timing and his touch, no problem."
Asked last week about his shooting touch, Muresan said, "75 percent, maybe 90 percent." Yesterday Muresan, who led the league in field-goal percentage last season, said it had improved even more.
"[Today] under 100 percent," Muresan said after yesterday's practice. "Maybe a little bit under, but not far."
He made sure to clarify.
"In practice, not in the game," Muresan said about his shot. "I don't know in game yet."
Sensing Muresan would return tonight, there was no teammate happier than Chris Webber, who gets to return to his more natural position of power forward. With Muresan out (along with backup center Lorenzo Williams, who is on the injured list with a sore left knee), Webber has been playing out of position at center, and Juwan Howard has been forced to play power forward.
"I love it. I love the fact that Gheorghe is back," Webber said. "You tend to forget how big Gheorghe is. I took his size for granted. But he's definitely going to change the pace and flow of our games."
In Muresan, the Bullets will get a consistent low-post presence -- something the team has not had this season. As a team, the Bullets are shooting 43.0 percent, and neither Webber (46.1 percent) nor Howard (40.2 percent) has been consistent in the low post.
"It enables us to be more complementary," Lynam said. "Chris and Juwan are very good passers, and Gheorghe is a terrific target. It's a nice little fit."
Muresan said conditioning is his remaining problem. He said that he doesn't plan to play more than 24 minutes, in six-minute spurts.
"I'm not in good shape," Muresan said. "After practice, I was tired. My conditioning isn't there, but my hip is ready."
Opponent: Detroit Pistons
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Time: 7: 30
Radio: WWRC (980 AM)
Outlook: The Bullets have lost two of three games at home and face one of the surprise teams of the season. Detroit is 4-1, losing only to the world champion Chicago Bulls. F Grant Hill looks even better than last year, averaging 22.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists. G Joe Dumars is averaging 19.2 points. The Bullets play their first game with C Gheorghe Muresan, who has been activated from the injured list after missing the first five games with a hip flexor injury. F Juwan Howard sprained his right ankle in Saturday's loss to Indiana but practiced yesterday and should be fine for tonight's game. The Bullets were 2-1 against the Pistons last season.
Pub Date: 11/12/96