Bullets can use Legler's deft touch Shooting guard aims to boost team; Webber eyes Monday return


BOWIE -- The Washington Bullets' Tim Legler was so happy to be back on the court that he didn't give much thought to how he would be received by fans after nine months away from the game. The loud ovation when he checked into Tuesday night's game against the New York Knicks caught him slightly off guard.

"It felt great, I felt that everybody appreciated that I helped this team last year, and they were anxious for me to come back," Legler said yesterday after the team's practice at Bowie State. "And it gives you an adrenalin shot and confidence boost."

It has been a frantic week for Legler. After starting the season on the injured list as he recovered from reconstructive surgery on his right knee, Legler was activated last Thursday. On Saturday he was in Cleveland to defend his three-point shootout title at the NBA All-Star Weekend, finishing second to Chicago Bulls guard Steve Kerr.

He practiced for the first time Monday, made his season debut Tuesday night (scoring nine points in 22 minutes) and looks for an ever-increasing role when the Bullets play host to the New Jersey Nets tonight at the Baltimore Arena.

"Basically, I've been thrown into the fire," Legler said. "It's amazing how things have come together so fast and already to be back here playing and going through long practices. I've had to jump back in with both feet, but there are only 34 games left, so I really can't take my time."

After bouncing around between the CBA and NBA for the better part of six seasons, Legler finally found a home last season when Bullets coach Jim Lynam gave him a chance. He won the All-Star three-point shootout, finished first in the league in three-point percentage (.507) and finally found some security by signing a two-year contract -- his first guaranteed deal in the NBA.

When Lynam was fired last week, Legler was unsure of what his role would be under a new coach. But Bernie Bickerstaff, aware the team needs outside shooting, plans to use Legler's long-range skills.

"For a guy who hasn't played in a while, I thought he did well," Bickerstaff said. "I also feel we have to figure out ways to try to get him some shots."

Legler's shooting may be needed more over the next week, with forward Chris Webber's strained back likely to keep him out of both games against New Jersey this weekend.

Webber said yesterday he is shooting to return for Monday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bullets tonight at the Arena

Opponent: New Jersey Nets

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7: 30

TV/Radio: Ch. 50/WWRC (980 AM)

Outlook: This is the first of back-to-back games against the Nets, with the teams meeting tomorrow in East Rutherford, N.J. The Bullets enter with a five-game losing streak and without F Chris Webber (strained back). There's a possibility F/C Lorenzo Williams (sore knee) will be activated for tonight's game. The Nets came out of the All-Star break with a win over the Orlando Magic, but lost to the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday. The Bullets won the teams' first meeting in New Jersey, 106-91, on Nov. 13.

Bembry's column

Jerry Bembry's "On the NBA" column will appear tomorrow.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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