Jeff Ruland of the Bullets doesn't have the conventional weekend. "You work six months, you're off six months," says the second-year forward who was named to the National Basketball Association's all-rookie team last year.
Now that basketball season is under way, Ruland can go back to reading books in his free moments. "I don't read during the summer. It's all during the year, to kill time," he says. He reads anything on the bestseller list, and anything by horror novelist Steven King.
In the off-season, Ruland goes fishing: "I don't go after anything bigger than me," he says -- that would be any fish more than 6f 11i. And he and his wife, Maureen, travel a lot, preferring Montauk on Long Island.
Ruland plays golf and a little racquetball -- to relax, not compete. He used to play tackle football, but now, he says, "I don't water-ski or anything like that. The Bullets tend to discourage me from doing anything. I might injure myself."
So, in his spare time, Ruland, 23, pursues gentler avenues of activity -- where the muscling up is purely vicarious.
"I'm a video nut," he says. The big guy doesn't sit home in front of the TV jockeying with Atari but goes to arcades: "I play the real ones," he says.
His game is Asteroids and he scores around 70,000; occasionally he will assume Missile Command, or he'll give a nod to Pac-Man: "I'm good for about 80," he says, meaning thousands. And although he's a fanatic, he won't buy his own game. "My wife won't let me bring those in the house," he says.
"I'm an avid movie freak," he says, citing "An Officer and a Gentleman" as one of the best movies in a long time. "I'll see anything, though. I am a kind of horror freak." His all- time favorite is the cult-classic, "Night of the Living Dead."
On a typical weekend during the season, on Saturday mornings, he wakes up just in time for practice at 11. After that, he says, "I grab some lunch, go to D.C. or a mall, shopping." He might stop at Landover Mall, or, he says, "just walk around downtown and go to any store I pass."
Saturday evenings, the Rulands go out for dinner; they go to a different restaurant every time, usually near home in Bowie. There's a reason for dining nearby: a two- year-old Doberman Pinscher named King. "I don't like to leave him that long. He tends to eat things," says Ruland. When he risks leaving King alone, Ruland likes seafood at Reardon's in Annapolis, French food at Dominique and pizza at Geppetto.
Ruland likes to cook: "I'm a barbeque man -- sausage, steaks, burgers. I make a great omelette." His preferred fuel is pot roast. "That doesn't sound like a delicacy, but that's my favorite," he says.
The Rulands tend to shy away from parties, but since they just bought a house, they plan to entertain more. For other amusement, Ruland tries to see as many rock groups playing at Capital Centre as he can. "But during the season, when one comes in I am always on the road trip going the other way," he says. "I missed the Stones last year -- they came to town on a Monday, I left town the same Monday."
Before a home game scheduled for a Sunday afternoon, Ruland prefers to "just lounge around the house -- have breakfast, listen to music and start thinking about the game." Somehow, the tension doesn't build for him -- no breathing deeply, no chanting mantras to relax before the game. "It's afterwards, after the game," he says. "I have so many aches I wind up not even sleeping."