The second commandment of basketball, the one that immediately follows "thou shalt covet anyone over 6-foot-10" is: "Seek ye a point guard." And it often is the most diffcult to obey, to find someone, like the Bullets' Tom Henderson, who makes everyone around him better.
To the two essential Ps - penetrating and passing - the newest Bullet adds assorted twists and finger rolls, power and quickness that yield layups when every nearby teammate is covered. As 6-3 and 190 pounds, Henderson is what Kevin Porter, the designated scapegoat of two years ago, might be if he ate 26 meals a day.
"He gets the ball through holes we on the bench don't even see," said Bob Weiss.
"During practice sometimes you cheat a little biton defense because you pretty much know what's going to happen," said Mike Riordan. "But he'll snap the ball quick enough and strong enough to still get through a hole you thought you'd plugged.
"He's like Kevin in many respects, but he's stronger going to the hoop. He finishes well himself, going full speed and then with an extra last lunge that puts him open."
"He's got knack for forcing himself into the seam of a defense, which is so important," said Kevin Grevey. "What he has you can't teach. You've just got to have a knack for it."
You develop that knack only in the most sophisticated of outdoor labs, the playgrounds, through painful experiments against players as strong and obsessed as yourself. Henderson already had a PhD., in hoops before he got to college.
"In our neighborhood," said Maryland's Steve Sheppard, who followed Henderson to DeWitt Clinto High in the Bronx, "Tommy was 'the Man,' the kind of guy everyone wanted to be like."
To which Henderson replied with loud laughter.
"Those were some real good times," he said.
"And he (Sheppard) helped me a lot. I'd be in college and he'd in high school, and I'd go back and we'd have some battles."
Also. Tiny Archibald would drop by, as would Dean Meminger, Mel Davis. Marvin Roberts, Ricky Sobers, Gus Williams, Earl Tatum and Butch Lee. One either got very good in that company or got out.
"I try to hold the ball until the last second," said Henderson, "to wait to see how the defense will commit itself. If it makes one mistake, I'm in."
It might not seem that way but it takes considerable time for a master of the outlet pass such as Wes Unseld to become comfortable with a favorite receiver. Even though the action seems to swift for such things there are signals from Unseld to Henderson.
"It might be a hand signal, or with the eyes." Unseld said. "Or it might be a pump with the Lall. Everyone talks about defending against the outlet pass, but there is no defense if I do what I'm supposed to do.
"If he has a step on his man, it's my job to deliver the ball so he still has that step." And the Bullets have taken some large strides since Henderson became a starter Feb. 25.
Since then the bullets have averaged nearly six more points per game. In the last seven games. Henderson has averaged more than 16 points. nearly seven assists and more than two steals.
Because of a friend. Ollie Taylor, Henderson went from high school to San Jacinto Junior College near Houston. Because of two other friends. Henderson later considered Georgetown. Briefly.
I didn't like the social life at San Jacinto," said Henderson, "but it was good basketball and it helped me mature. In the long run, it was good."
Much of the college world, including Guy Lewis apparently, though Henderson was destined for Houston University directly out of junior college. Henderson said no. He also declined Drake and Long Beach State the latter because he though it was soon destined for NCAA probation.
Henderson said yes to Hawii, and because of it Sheppard also enrolled there. At Hawaii, Henderson got more exposure internationally, through games against the Soviets and the '72 Olympics, than he did in the United States.
In the NBA, as elsewhere, Hawks do not outrun Bullets, and Henderson must have been frequently frustrated his first two years as a pro. His coming to the Bullets for Truck Robinson seems to have benefitted both players and both teams.
The one question skeptics have about Henderson - and the Bullets - is what happens when the opposition starts hustling back on defense in the playoffs, when the team must play a half-court game? In short, what happens when Henderson must shoot 15-foot jumpers?
In truth that is looking too far ahead. The immediate problem is getting the most advantageous position for the playoffs. And overcoming one nagging reminder.
Even though the chemistry of the Bullets, as Dick Motta calls it, has changed drastically - and seemingly for the better - the team must win seven of its final 11 games simply to equal last season's record, the one that helped get K.C. Jones fired.