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Riding the Bullets Bench October

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8 October-16 October 1996

Top News Items between 8 October and 16 October 1996:

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Basically, the therapy for Gheorghe Muresan's strained hip flexor has not been responding well to treatment and Muresan will probably not be with the Bullets for at least another week. That means that the Bullets will get through training camp once again without getting their projected starting lineup playing together.

GM Wes Unseld said: "Gheorghe is doing much better, but he still has some soreness once it gets stiff. I decided - and I talked with the doctors - to just leave him down there [at home in Maryland]. For a day and a half [of practice], it makes no sense." As for his return, Unseld said: "It'll be up to the doctors. The problem with Gheorghe playing Friday night is that he has not had any chance to do any running. To put him in a game situation doesn't make a lot of sense."

Coach Jim Lynam has indicated that to fill the gap, the Bullets may play Chris Webber significant minutes at center. As many of you are aware, Webber generally frowns on playing center, but from the start of training camp he has said that he will play wherever the team needs him.

In other practice news, Harvey Grant sat out both of Tuesday's practices with a sore back. Further, neither the Bullets nor Ronnie Henderson's agent, James Cook, have heard from the missing Bullet. Said Cook: "He [Henderson] was having the adjustment problems, but I thought he'd work through all that." Let's hope Henderson's doing alright and is just taking some quiet time to sort things through.

A couple of other players are feeling the pain of these practices, though it isn't keeping them off the court. Juwan Howard has shin splints in his left leg, and Calbert Cheaney has a slightly injured groin muscle. And Strickland hasn't been playing up to expected form. Most disturbing to me is that Rod came to camp "out-of-shape." Said Rod: "It's still not totally there. Partly due to me not being totally in shape, but I'm getting there. It's getting there. I don't think it's there yet. The big toe's a little sore, the body's kind of worn down after all the inactivity and then coming into, boom, real hard and real quick." Yo, Rod, you're supposed maintain some modicum of training during the off season. At least, that's what I would expect if you want to be at your best.

Well, tonight the Bullets have an open practice at Shepherds College at 7pm, and I plan on being there. You're welcome to attend, too, if you're in the area. Look for a tall, young guy with a goatee to spot me. Expect a wrap up tomorrow.

wtf 9 October 1996
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Yes, I believe that I am now certifiably crazy. Why did I make that 2-hour trek in the rain-slowed traffic from McLean, VA to Shepherdstown, WV? Nevermind that I was about 30 minutes late and only saw about 45 minutes of actioin, and the return trip to Reston, VA only lasted 1 hour. But yes, you will get my first hand impressions on this team. (And when I get the photos developed and scanned, some images.)

The white team, which consisted of mostly starters, beat the blue team, 47-37, over the course of two 12-minute halves. Assistant coach Bob Staak coached the white team, while new assistant coach Clifford Ray (who is so new he wasn't even on the roster they handed out) coached the blue team. Tim Legler and Juwan Howard were in street clothes and did not participate; Rod Strickland was nowhere to be found (that I could see), Muresan was apparently still back in Maryland, but Ronnie Henderson was on the court participating.

White Team
#40 Calbert Cheaney
#22 Matt Fish
#15 Chris Kingsbury
#35 Tracy Murray
#4 Chris Webber
#12 Chris Whitney
#43 Lorenzo Williams
Blue Team
#50 Ashraf Amaya
#44 Harvey Grant
#20 Ronnie Henderson
#32 Jaren Jackson
#14 Clint McDaniel
#33 Dwayne Morton
#55 Richard Petruska
#30 Ben Wallace

Now you can see why the white team won? Look at the talent the team had.

As for impressions, well, I came out with more than a few.

The Bullets escaped without any major injuries. Whitney seemed to twist an ankle when scrambling for a loose ball, but shook it off and continued. And Webber his right quadricep muscle early, but played again also.

Altogether, the outing was too short. I hurt myself by being late. Make sure you're there before 7pm if you attend next year. Odds are you might be allowed to watch them warmup, etc. There was no time for autographs, talking to them, etc. after the game. The team went immediately into a team meeting.

Because of the relatively sloppy play of this scrimmage, I still think the Bullets are going to start the season a little slow. Getting the key pieces playing together is the only way to get rid of the ugly play. But the promise is there, and I definitely look forward to this season starting.

Were you there? If so, let me know your impressions. On to the pre-season (after they wrap up camp today).

wtf 10 October 1996
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Well, I've already covered the scrimmage. The other details are pretty well covered by J.A. Adande in the October 10 Washington Post article: Abracadabra: Guard Reappears At Camp.

The print version of the article went into a little more depth. Henderson didn't return until lunchtime on Wednesday, and his return was unexpected. However, Henderson got his chance to return and seemed a little contrite about the whole episode: "I made a mistake by leaving. I know that. I talked to the coaches about it and my teammates, and they understood. They gave me a second chance, which I appreciate." As for why he left? "I was frustrated because I had injury after injury after injury."

What a bloody soap opera. He's getting a chance, but it seems like he needs a little more time to mature. I originally thought he'd bring a lot to the team, but based on what I saw last night and this recent walkout, it seems there are other backcourt players who might do more for the Bullets. The talent's there, Henderson now has to rein it in and focus it positively on the court. And it's a little too late to do that with the Bullets.

He's probably going to spend the season in the CBA (or overseas), IMO. Let's hope he can sort things out. (You know, he could always wind up on injured reserve for the time being - the injuries seem legit, though he can play with them. Then the pick doesn't seem like a total waste.)

wtf 10 October 1996
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11 October 1996. Washington Bullets 108, Minnesota Timberwolves 82 (preseason record: 1-0)
Game leaders: Webber (19 points), Petruska (8 rebounds), Strickland (9 assists)

Well, the Bullets broke camp on October 10 without cutting any players, as had been originally anticipated. Possibly, with some of the nagging injuries, especially to Howard and Muresan, it was good to keep some players a few extra days to see what they could do.

It was also disclosed that Strickland was in New York City on Wednesday during the scrimmage, attending to some family matters. But he's back with the team now, and it's a good thing he is.

The Bullets didn't look back when they took on the Minnesota Timberwolves in Fairfax, VA on Friday, October 11. The Bullets pasted the Wolves 108-82 in front of a crowd of 6,103. Webber and Strickland showed a real chemistry on the floor. Webber led everyone with 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting (although only 3 of 7 from the free throw line), and Strickland had 9 assists.

The Bullets were especially impressive with their defense, holding the Wolves to 37.3% (31 of 83) shooting, while shooting 51.2% (43 of 84) and 64.3% (9 of 14) from 3-point range. Everyone played between 14 and 18 minutes, except for Ronnie Henderson (who didn't get into the game - an early indication?).

wtf 23 October 1996
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13 October 1996. New Jersey Nets 93, Washington Bullets 80 (preseason record: 1-1)
Game leaders: Cheaney (12 points), Murray, Petruska (7 rebounds), Murray (3 assists)

The Bullets can't buy a 3-point shot (0 for 12) and lose to the Nets. The played without three of their projected starters (Muresan, Howard and Webber) and instead started Lorenzo Williams, Ashraf Amaya, and Tracy Murray. Talk about lack of continuity.

At least the reserves got plenty of playing time, giving coach Jim Lynam a chance to evaluate the talent. However, what he saw would not have pleased him. The Bullets were down 18 points (59-41) at halftime. They commited 9 turnovers in the first quarter, on their way to 23 in the game. The two teams combined for 67 total penalties. At least the Bullets got 25 offensive rebounds in the game. Unfortunately, they still couldn't put the shot back in.

At least the crowd of 3,438 got a chance to welcome former U-Mass. coach John Calipari (now coach of the New Jersey Nets) back in town. But, to be honest, that must've been the only highlight of the afternoon for the crowd.

wtf 16 January 1997
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14 October 1996. Indiana Pacers 109, Washington Bullets 102 (preseason record: 1-2)
Game leaders: Murray (17 points), Amaya (11 rebounds), Strickland (4 assists)

The Bullets are missing their top 4 front court players (Muresan, Williams, Webber, Howard), hit only 1 of 18 3-point shots, and still almost win the game. The Bullets were down 93-74 after three quarters, but rallied in the fourth quarter to nearly post the upset. However, that's about the only details available on the game, except for a box score.

The day after the game, the Bullets cut guards Ronnie Henderson and Clint McDaniel, leaving them with 16 players on their roster. But with 4 players down with injuries, don't look for the Bullets to trim their roster much farther.

wtf 16 January 1997
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