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2 October-7 October 1996
Top News Items between 2 October and 7 October 1996:
- The Bullets announce a new assistant coach, Clifford Ray (10/3/96)
- More news and notes as the Bullets head to training camp (10/4/96)
- The Bullets TV contract stays with Home Team Sports (10/4/96)
- The players check in for the start of training camp (10/4/96)
- Training camp kicks off with a bang and some injuries (10/5/96)
- Now training camp starts to get interesting (10/8/96)
Back to 25 September 1996 Forward to 8 October 1996
On October 2, the Bullets named a new assistant coach: Clifford Ray. Nominally, he could be said to be replacing the late Derek Smith, but that isn't right. And Ray can stand on his own, as well.
GM Wes Unseld said: "The Bullets are excited to be able to obtain an assistant coach with such impressive credentials. Through this NBA playing and coaching experience, Clifford will be able to relate to our players and help them develop their game."
Ray spent last season as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Nets. In particular, he worked a lot with Sean Bradley. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach in the Continental Basketball Association and on the coaching staff of the Dallas Mavericks for 6 years.
The 6'9" Ray played in the NBA for 10 years. One area he will concentrate on is working with the big men, in particular Gheorghe Muresan. Said Ray: "Coach [Jim] Lynam told me I was going to love him because he has a great work ethic. I'm one of those guys that's kind of tireless."
Also, the Bullets announced a new advance scout, Jim Boyle. Boyle was an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets between 1990 and 1992. Boyle was replacing Jay Hillock, who left when John Nash re-signed at the end of April. Hillock is now director of scouting for the Vancouver Grizzlies.
wtf 3 October 1996
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More training camp news. One bit of bad news: Gheorghe Muresan won't be available when training camp opens on October 4 in Shepherdstown, WV. No, it's not his knee injury that's keeping him out. It's a hip flexor he injured this summer. Said Muresan's agent, Bill Sweek: "There's no more pain in his knee at all, which is more major." He called the hip flexor injury "more of a nuisance."
Also, the Bullets announced the players that they signed as training camp "fodder." However, that's not quite true, because there is a roster spot for two of them, probably a swing man and a center. They have signed:
And training camp starts on Friday. Wa-hoo!
- center Matt Fish (6'11"), who, when asked what he brings to the team, first said: "I'm durable."
- center Richard Petruska (6'11")
- forward Ben Wallace (6'9")
- guard-forward Dwayne Morton (6'6"), who played last year in Israel and played 41 games with the Golden State Warriors in 1994-95
- guard Jaren Jackson (6'6"), who has played with 5 NBA franchises since graduating from Georgetown in 1989
- guard Chris Kingsbury (6'5"), an undrafted rookie this year
- guard Clint McDaniel (6'4"), who played 12 games with the Sacramento Kings last year and played some point guard for the 1994 NCAA champion Arkansas Razorbacks
- guard Ronnie Henderson (6'4"), the Bullets second round pick this year (who also has a non-guaranteed contract).
wtf 4 October 1996
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Home Team Sports (aka HTS) has renewed its broadcasting contract with the Bullets. The contract means the Westinghouse-owned HTS will produce and air games of the Washington Bullets and Capitals in a long-term deal that sources indicate will extend beyond the year 2000.
The challenger for the teams' TV rights was Fox/Liberty Media, a new cable partnership that plans to launch its own Middle Atlantic regional sports network. Fox/Liberty had offered about $12M to secure the rights for the teams, but HTS had an option in its previous contract with the teams to match any offer and retain the teams.
Mel Proctor and Phil Chenier will continue as the announcers for Washington Bullets games. HTS announced that it will be airing 38 Capitals games and 42 Bullets games this season. HTS will produce all telecasts on HTS and WBDC-TV-50. Channel 50 will air 30 Bullets and 20 Capitals games, the same number as last year. The HTS schedule includes 12 more Bullets games than last year.
In a statement from the teams' owner Abe Pollin: "After careful consideration, reflection and study, we are satisfied that HTS did effectively match the Fox/Mid-Atlantic Sports offer and that therefore we have a legal duty to move ahead with HTS. We are very excited to continue our longstanding relationship with HTS and their outstanding production."
Fox/Liberty Sports had previously tried purchasing HTS from Westinghouse. Rumors indicate that course of action is still an outside possibility. HTS may still lose the rights to Baltimore Orioles games (Fox/Mid-Atlantic Sports also is bidding on that). More intrigue is no doubt on the way.
wtf 56October 1996
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Yup, it was the day before training camp was to start. And the players all arrived to check in. As the paper said today, it's a time to be optimistic.
The latest camp news:
When asked about the Bullets roster concerns for camp (with Legler out, in particular), coach Jim Lynam explained his thoughts: "We need another guard, for sure. And he's got to be able to play point, that guard. Does have to be strictly a point? Not necessarily, but he has to be able to play some point. That's the only thing I have absolutely set in my mind. After that, whether we need another perimeter guy or another big gut? To be determined."
- Muresan showed up to pose for team pictures and fill out forms, but then he went home to Maryland for more treatment and rest. He is expected to return to camp Tuesday.
- Guard Tim Legler, recovering from an ACL reconstruction, was also here. He's been running at 3/4-speed for 9-minute intervals and is shooting 150 jumpers a day. He says the strength has returned, but it still lacks stability. (I find this a little disconcerting, because when strength returns to normal, as measured on the various "torture" machines, your knee should be stable. Been there, done that.) With the strength back, he could be ready ahead of schedule (IMO).
- And here's a big shock: Rod Strickland was late reporting to camp. No, it wasn't an attempt to make his case for more money. He blamed his driver, Harvey Grant. Grant, in turn, blamed traffic on I-270. Go figure.
- Chris Webber is big, solid, ready to go. His teammates, even Strickland, seemed to be surprised. Said CWebb: "Physically, I feel great." "I haven't thought about it [the shoulder]. It's been tested, it's been bumped, bruised and pulled on. I'm very confident."
And what does the team leader, Juwan Howard, think? "On paper, we look great. But first we've got to get that continuity together. That's what training camp is all about: us learning each other, getting to know how to play together, gelling together. Coach Lynam will truly do his best to make sure that this is one of the powerhouses in the Eastern Conference."
And so it goes with the Bullets. Stay tuned for more Bullets updates. Which may even include a live report by yours truly...
wtf 4 October 1996
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Alright, even I'm now willing to admit that Chris Webber seems to be a little fragile. On the first day of camp, CWebb suffered a mild sprain of the left ankle in the evening practice on Friday. It was enough to keep him out of both the morning and evening practices on Saturday. He spent the time doing strengthening exercises for the ankle on a stationary bike and a stair machine.
But at least Webber was present for the first day of training camp for the first time in his career. He was a contract hold out his first three seasons in the NBA. It was something he was really looking forward to. He was up early on Friday morning, with tears running down his face thinking about the start of camp. Early on, he returned to the court at full throttle, charging through the lane and aggressively going to the basket almost every time he touched the ball. That's what I like to hear about Webber. Compare it to last year, when everyone was just waiting for the shoulder to dislocate again. Now, according to doctors, "your teeth will fall out before the shoulder will fall out once you have the surgery."
However, the current concern is about another injury. At least Webber can laugh about the injury: "I'm not going to think about it [the ankle injury], it's just a little sprain. Right now everything still is magnified. If I was to twist my finger, it probably wouldn't hurt but it would be, in my mind, like, 'Oh no! Not something else.'"
Will Webber ask for a new deal in the aftermath of Juwan's jackpot? Said Webber: "I got what I asked for, Juwan go what he asked for, let's move on. Juwan deserves everything he go. For me to go back and say, 'Well, thos or that ...' He played last year. Now it's time to win. Everything's in order. Now it's just time to win." Plus, he has to wait three years after signing his contract before seeking to re-negotiate. So we won't have him hold out next off-season.
Also, other news tidbits from the second day of camp:
- Juwan Howard missed the morning practice session to attend the funeral of a family friend in Chicago.
- Rod Strickland did not practice in the evening practice session after reaggravating a groin injury. (Please, PLEASE, let this not be a recurring Les Boulez injury.)
Also, J.A. Adande wrote an article in the Sunday Post about the expectations for Calbert Cheaney this season. And let's just say, everyone, especially coach Jim Lynam and CWebb, are expecting much more scoring and emotion from the fourth year guard.
wtf 5 October 1996
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Just when you thought the Bullets training camp wouldn't amount to anything more than stories about sore body parts, Ronnie Henderson mixes things up. By walking out of camp without explanation. Said general manager Wes Unseld: "I'm speculating that that's what he's done. He came here [to the gymnasium] and picked up some things and left without saying anything to anybody."
Henderson has not been having the most productive training camp, especially when fighting for a roster spot. The news story indicates that he never fully rehabilitated the knee he injured last season in college, and the Bullets were disappointed with his conditioning and work habits this summer and during training camp. (Now they say this; earlier indications were they liked what they saw in Henderson, but that may just be an evaluation of talent and not necessarily the work ethic.)
Then, it gets a little stranger. Henderson reportedly had his best practice on Sunday evening, but then complained of a groin injury after the Monday morning session. Henderson visited coach Jim Lynam's hotel room between practice sessions, but he awakened Lynam from a nap. They agreed to talk when they got to Shepherd College that evening for practice, but Lynam never saw him again.
No one knows why Henderson left. Could be frustration with his play, the aches all over the body, or whatever. It's probably going to take a good explanation to be allowed to return to camp. And that's a shame, because he had a wealth of talent. It doesn't look like he was quite ready to jump to the NBA.
However, the challenge for the last two roster spots is heating up and seeming to focus on 4 players in particular. The front court position seems to come down to Ben Wallace and Matt Fish, and the guard rotation comes down to Clint McDaniel and Jaren Jackson.
All indications are that center Richard Petruska, guard Chris Kingsbury, and now Henderson will probably not make the team. They all might get cut when training camp breaks this Thursday.
- Wallace is young and raw. He's aggressive and goes to the basket so strongly that even when he misses his dunks, his teammates applaud and high-five him just for the effort. The decision here may come down to whether the Bullets want to keep a raw player who may not help much on the court initially, or keep an experienced front court player like Fish, who has played 44 games in the NBA over the past 3 seasons.
- Lynam is looking for another guard who can swing between the off and point guard positions. Says Lynam: "They've [McDaniel and Jackson] both done a good job. Clint is a more natural [point guard]. Jaren is a good ballhandler for [an off-guard], who I think has the capability of playing [point]." This could be an interesting competition.
In other practice news, Webber was held out of the morning practice on Sunday to rest his ankle, but he returned in the evening. Strickland practiced in both sessions on Sunday, after resting his groin injury on Saturday, but then he missed the Monday evening practice with a sore right big toe (sounds like turf toe). And Lorenzo Williams missed both practices on Saturday and the Monday evening practice because of an illness.
And on the former Bullet front, Brent Price partially tore a ligament in his right knee at the Houston Rockets training camp in Galveston, TX. Doctors indicate he will be sidelined for 2 to 3 weeks, but should be ready for the Rockets season opener on November 1. Said team physician Walter Lowe: "He'll probably wear a brace for a while after he comes back. He has a good shot at playing without the brace by the time the season starts." Price injured his left knee with the Bullets two years ago, so (luckily) it's not the same knee.
Also, check in with my look back at the off-season that was, as scary as it was. I also look forward to the season that will be and provide some gut reactions on their prospects and possible roster problems.
Lastly, J.A. Adande has put together another story about this Bullets, this time focusing on the two Bullets who nearly became ex-Bullets: Tracy Murray and Lorenzo Williams. It'll recap a little background on each player and the strange circumstances by which they arrive and stay with the Bullets.
wtf 8 October 1996
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