?The Beltway jinx. The Franchise—forward Chris Webber—signed a six-year, $57 million contract in early October, and the team's fortunes rest squarely on his shoulders. Unfortunately Webber dislocated the left one in the preseason and will miss the first month of the season. Last year during the Bullets' snake-bitten 21-61 season, Washington ranked fourth in the NBA in games missed because of injury (14 players combined for a total of 317 games).
?The key. Mark Price, whom the Bullets acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers. If healthy, Price, one of the elite point guards in the league, fills the Bullets' biggest need. Alas, he, too, may be out several weeks with a foot injury. Robert Pack, acquired from the Denver Nuggets, will run the show in Price's absence.
?Outlook. If Webber and Price get healthy and second-year forward Juwan Howard (17.0-point rookie average) keeps improving, this team will be in the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
Mourning becomes Miami
?The franchise. On Nov. 3 the Heat obtained two-time All-Star center Alonzo Mourning from the Charlotte Hornets in a six-player deal. What does new coach-president-minority owner Pat Riley, lured from the New York Knicks with an estimated $15 million package, expect from Mourning? "Twenty-five points and 20 rebounds a game," he says.
?Up-front gains. Mourning (2.92 blocks a game last season) will intimidate. The two Heat forwards can shift to their natural positions: Billy Owens to small forward and Kevin Willis to power forward.
?The losses. Gone in the trade are the franchise's leading scorer, forward Glen Rice; second-year point guard Khalid Reeves; and workmanlike center Matt Geiger. Sasha Danilovic, the promising but unproven rookie from Serbia, will shoulder some of Rice's shooting burden.
?Outlook. The Mourning coup added to Miami's growing Rileymania, which will be further stoked by an improvement from last season's 32 victories.
Looking for Mr. Good Guy
? Coleman's condition. Moody but skilled power forward Derrick Coleman, who with point guard Kenny Anderson is the franchise's heart, has a minor irregular heartbeat, a condition that can be controlled by medication. But Coleman is expected to be out for at least several games.