Losing is a new experience for Adrian Dantley.
Rare were the defeats at De Matha High School in Hyattsville, Md. Ditto at Notre Dame. But with the troubled Buffalo Braves in the National Basketball Association, losing has become almost like getting up in the morning: something that happens just about every day.
Dantley comes to Capital Centre tonight for an 8:05 game with the Bullets that will be his professional debut before hometown followers. And for a 6-foot-5, 20-year-old rookie, he is being asked to carry quite a load.
Bob McAdoo and Tom McMillen were traded to the New York Knicks, Ken Charles was dealt to Atlanta, Moses Malone was shipped to Houston and, all of a sudden, the very good team Dantley envisioned being a part of was reduced to a troup of journeymen and dissatisfied players - and him.
The Braves made a move yesterday by acquiring 6-11 George Johnson, one of the Golden State Warriors' three centers, for a first-round pick in this year's draft. It is unlikely he will make it here for the game, or be ready to fit if he did. A McAdoo he isn't.
Dantley is Buffalo's leading scorer, averaging 18.4 points a game while shooting 52 per cent. He is the team's second-leading rebounder with an 8.1 average and its leading offensive rebounder with 3.5 a game.
When McAdoo was with the Braves, Dantley wasn't trying to score a lot. Now he has to. As a result, he has averaged 24.5 points the last 11 games.
But he is playing for a team that has lost six of seven games and is 10 games out of the lead in the Atlantic Division. Barring injury, Dantley has a near lock on rookie of the year honors, but his high hopes of joining a title chase have been all but ended.
"I though we'd be a playoff contender," Dantley said. "I was excited. "That's why I signed a five-year contract.
"We really had a great team here," he added. "Sometimes now I really get depressed because we don't have that team anymore and because I'm not used to losing. I even get embarrassed at our scores sometimes."
After the Braves dealt McAdoo and McMillen to the Knicks for John Gianelli and a great deal of money after having already sold Jim McMillian to New York, Bullet coach Dick Motta said that if Buffalo was selling all its players, he would go after Dantley.
"You have to like him," Motta said. "You have to, a tough, smart young kid like that. Boy, can he play."
The idea of playing for Washington has crossed Dantley's mind more than once.
"I would love to play in Washington," he said. "That would be the ideal situation. With (Mitch) Kupchak, Larry (Wright) and myself we'd be the team of the future.
"Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to play for the Bullets and I still hope to, but I did sign a five-year contract with Buffalo and (Buffalo coach) Tates Locke is one of my biggest supporters. He's doing the best he can."
The Bullets beat the Braves, 99-88, in Buffalo Dec. 17. Dantley, playing for the first time in four games because of a leg muscle pull, scored 29 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had three assists and two steals.
He is still nagged by a number of injuries and said he probably won't completely heal until the season is over. He has a groin pull, his thumb is bothering him and his wrist hurst.
"No rest and going against [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and stronger ball players is [WORD ILLEGIBLE] becauses it," he said. "But it's all part of the game. I can take it. I'm confident, but humble. The critics have always said Dantley is only 6-5 and he's too small to play the big forwards and too slow to play the small forwards. I think I've shown most of them what I can do."
Dantley's former Notre Dame teammate, John Shumate, is the Braves' starting center, but has a bad foot and his status for tonight's [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]