Memo to Bullet fans: Don't start fitting Bob Dandridge to a hero's mantle. No matter what size you try, he says it still won't fit.
"There is no way that I think I'm going to come in here and win a championship for this team," said Dandridge, who is well aware his acquisition during the offseason has fueled high expectations among many Bullet partisans.
"I think we are a contender for a division crown and I think we can do well in the playoffs," he said. "But Philly showed last year that just bringing together a bunch of stars doesn't automatically mean the championship.
"The key is for all of us to blend together as a unit and play together like that all season. Playing that way, I'm sure I can help this team."
Dandridge's assimilation into the Bullet system has been slowed somewhat by a sprained ankle, which acted up again yesterday and forced him to miss another day of workouts. And he's not sure how much longer he'll be out before it heals properly.
Still, the injury hasn't altered what Dandridge calls "the most enthusiasm I've had at the start of any season since Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) left Milwaukee three years ago.
"I'm in the prime of my career. I'll be 30 right after the season starts and I've never felt better. I've got out of a situation I didn't want to stay in at Milwaukee and now I'm in a situation which has less pressure than I've felt in years. It's great."
Dandridge looks as if he just graduated from Norfolk State instead of being ready to start his 10th year in the NBA. His weight is no problem and he says he is as quick as ever.
Once Abdul-Jabbar left the Bucks for Los Angeles, the Bucks went through a gradual roster change until Dandridge found himself in a role he didn't want to play.
"It was more a mental thing than anything else," he said. "I was the sea soned veteran there playing with a lot of young people. I was expected to carry the scoring load, to pull down so many rebounds a game, to provide leadership, to teach in practices.
"With Washington, I can concentrate on doing the things a small forward should do: get my points, get out on the fast break and play good defense against people the same size I am. I don't have to guard bigger people like I did in Milwaukee.
"That's why I'm here. It's not a matter of money. I just wanted to play on a team which is conscientious, that wants to win and can get into the playoffs. In Milwaukee, they were going through a rebuilding program. That's not what someone my age needs to go through."
And Milwaukee doesn't have what Dandridge feels are the postcareer business opportunities that a city like Washington features. When you are within three or four years of retirement, as Dandridge says he is, "You better start thinking about what you are going to do when you are 40.
"About two years ago, I decided it was time for me to start thinking of a future without basketball. I began looking around for another place to play. New York and Los Angeles already had enough stars. Washington was closer to home (Virginia) and I figured in a few years there, I could develop the right contacts."
Dandridge's change of scenery proved to be an expensive one for the Bullets. He is making an estimated $250,000 a year and the club is paying Milwaukee another $200,000 over four years in compensation.
In return, Dandridge says he wants to "play up to the same performance standards I've set since I've come into the league. If I can do that, I think I can complement Phil (Chenier) and Elvin (Hayes) and take some pressure off them."
Besides, he said, he really didn't increase his wealth that much by leaving Milwaukee."I found that out," he said with a laugh, "after looking a few days for a house.
"I mean, can you believe the price of housing in this area? And everything else costs more, utilities, food, everything. Maybe I should have gotten more money, the way I'm spending it now."
In between shopping for a home and treating the sore ankle, Dandridge has shown enough of his skills to satisfy coach Dick Motta, who has maintained his newest star is the key to the Bullets' championship hopes this season.
"He's run hard when he has been able to prractice," said Motta. "He has that great quickness and fluid motion. He's a pleasure to watch."
Dandridge, who has an 18.8-point career scoring average, realizes he has something to prove, both to Motta and to his teammates, especially the younger players.
"These young guys push the veterans," he said. "You have to go out in practice and show a Greg Ballard, a Bo Ellis, a Kevin Grevey that what they have heard about your ability is true.
"Here, there is a beautiful mixture of youth and experience. At Milwaukee, it was going to be me, at 30, and everyone else at 22. I couldn't see much of a life with the players off the court.
"It's different here. They've accepted me and that's all I can ask. The rest has to be up to me. It's a nice situation to be in."
Phil Chenier swam laps at a health club yesterday and said he hopes to begin light running before the end of the week. "My back feels better every day," he said. Said Motta, "If we can get him back playing by next week, I will feel good about it."