Bobby Dandridge would like to believe everything he has read and heard about how he has been dominating pro basketball's doctor of spectacular moves, Julius Erving.
"It's good for the ego," he says with a laugh. "I mean, it's not every day you supposedly can control a superstar."
But nine years in the NBA have taught Dandridge a major lesson: "you never control superstars. Maybe you can neutralize them once in awhile, but you don't stop them."
So Dandridge goes into every game of te Eastern Conference championship series trying to make Erving work diligently at both ends of the court while hoping the 76ers' all-pro forward doesn't decide to take over the bulk of the Philadelphia offense.
"If Julius was David Thompson, he'd be shooting more and scoring more," said Dandridge. "But the 76ers don't look for him every time down the court like Denver looks for Thompson.
"That makes it easier to guard him. With Thompson, you feel every possession he might shoot. Julius doesn't want to be that much of a one-man show. He likes to get involved with a team concept.
"I think that's a great idea. And I hope he doesn't change his mind."
This best-of-seven series was supposed to serve as a showcae for Erving' incredible bag of talents. But except for a brief spurt early in the third quarter of the second game, he has been strangely subdued.
Part of the problem may be a sore hand he first hurt in that second contest and aggravated in game three Friday night. But Erving says the hand doesn't bother him and isn't affecting his play.
More troubling to him, however, is the disjointed nature of the Philadelphia offense. Even centers Caldwell Jones and Darryl Dawkins seem to have the balls as much as Erving, who will go long stretches without being involved in the 76ers' attack. And when he finally gets a chance to display one of his moves, Dandridge is receiving plenty of defense help from his teammates.
"I'm trying to play basic defense," Dandridge said. "Nothing really fancy. You have to start somewhere, so I guess I begin with his outside shot. You probably have to give him that until he proves he can make it.
"Oh his drives, I need help from the big people inside. If they can pick him up for me, then he isn't as free to roam as he might be.
"You just have to do what you think will work. But with someone like Doc, he's going to score. You can't fret about it. If he does, you have to go down the other end and play your game too."
Dandridge has frustrated Erving at least a couple of times in each of the first three games by batting away the ball at waist level as Erving is going up to shoot. Erving also has had to deal with Bullet guards like Larry Wright and Charles Johnson reaching in from behind for steals.
Erving appeared befuddled most of Friday's contest. He got a couple of baskets in the final moments to finish with 12 points on four-of-14 shooting. He had 47 points the first two games but has been a factor for only brief periods.
Dandridge, who depends more on economical moves than spectacular plays to score his points, has been much more consistent. He has been beating Erving down the floor on fast breaks, he has shot well and he has repeatedly taken Erving down low and scored off him on one-on-one plays.
He also has 16 assists with his 70 points and seven steals. Especially in game three, Dandridge has delivered almost everytime the Bullets needed a basket, a fast break or a good pass.
"There are certain things I feel I can do in Julius when we have the ball," said Dandridge. "I have confidence in my offensive ability. Yon don't last this long in the NBA without being able to do something."
Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry likes to call Dandridge a "money player" because of the way he performs in pressure games. One reason Dandridge does well in the clutch is his ability to work against clinging, gambling defenses.
He doesn't try to fight defensive pressure, instead taking what his defender gives him. If Erving overplays to one side, Dandridge drives the other way. When he feels a defender leaning on him, he will step back and shoot instead of trying to jump forward and draw a foul.
He is fulfilling Coach Dick Motta's pre-series plan to make Erving crtend himself all game instead of his being able to loaf at the defensive end. As a result, Dandridge is showing why the Bullets made him their No. 1 free-agent target after last season.
"Bobby is so smart out there," said Elvin Hayes. "He's always thinking and he is always giving us what we need. I know if I get open, Bobby will get me the ball, even if he has a good shot. That makes you work harder to get open."
Dandridge is not inclined to fight, and he says that is one reason he likes to cover Erving.
"In our matchup, I don't have to worry about getting into any slugging matches," he said. "Doc and I will sit out any fights. Maybe you can call us the finesse matchup. We'll leave the pushing and shoving to the big-guys.
"Anyway, when you are covering Julius Erving, the last thing on your mind is fighting.You just want to survive."