Veteran forward Bob Dandridge abruptly walked out of the Bullets' training camp yesterday on the first day of practice in an apparent salary dispute with the team.
Dandridge showed up at the team's training headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., for a required team meeting after taking a physical examination.
But he was not uniform when the defending NBA champions began practice 90 minutes later.
"I don't know where he is or why he left," said General Manager Bob Ferry. "He hasn't talked to me about anything. If he's unhappy, I didn't know about it."
Sources had told The Washington Post Thursday that Dandridge was trying to renegotiate his contract. But Dandridge denied the report, saying: "I have not talked to Abe Pollin, Bob Ferry or anyone about the contract."
Asked if he would be with the team when practice began today, Dandridge said, "I'll be there. I hadn't thought about anything like this. I wonder how these things get started."
Dandridge could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Dandridge signed with the Bullets before last season after playing out his option with Milwaukee. His contract reportedly was for three years, at an annual salary of $250,000. During the team's march to last season's NBA title, Dandridge was one of its most valuable players. He was especially outstanding in the Philadelphia series, when he outplayed Julius Erving.
Elvin Hayes, whose contract expires at the end of this season, denied that he also was trying to renegotiate his contract. "That's up to Abe and the Bullets," said Hayes. "I wouldn't mind talking to them but I'm not worried about it if I don't sign. I can always take my chances as a free agent next summer. Maybe I can go to New York and get some big bucks like Marvin Webster."
Before the first veterans practice began, the Bullets officially signed first-round draft choice Roger Phegley, who had missed Thursday's two-practice rookie camp.
Phegley said his decision to sign was just a matter of common sense. "I knew if I was going to make a contribution this season, I had to be in camp," he said. "So I figured I'd better sign."
He said that he had prepared from the beginning for the worst, "but it was really tough the last few days. I wanted to be in camp and I also wanted to have a decent contract." Phegley signed for a reported five years at $100,000 a year.
"I always felt we would reach an agreement I didn't know when but there was never any serious talk about being traded to another team or tting out the year. I knew those possibilities were there, but who wanted them?
"When I visited here in the summer, I knew I wanted to play with this team and in this city. I like the whole setup, so I wanted to make sure we reached an agreement.
"I wanted security and I got that, "The Bullets, I hope, got what they wanted. I'm happy. It got down to a matter of being stubborn or being able to play. I stayed out of making any decisions until the last few days and then I got involved more. It was a learning experience, that's for sure."
At 6-foot-6, Phegley becomes the biggest guard on the Bullet roster. The club is hoping he can survive the final cut because it needs a backup tall guard to help out Kevin Grevey, especially, since no one is sure when Phil Chenier will recover from back surgery.
To make the roster, Phegley probably will have to beat out second-year guard Phil Walker, who played little last season. Walker, at 6-2, is a fine jumper but is about the same size as three other Bullet guards: Larry Wright, Charles Johnson and Tom Henderson.
"I know I'm not going to play a lot," said Phegley. "I hope to make a good enough showing that they will give me a role to fill and that I can fill it well enough.
"That's why I want to get off to a good start in training camp. It's not going to do me much good to be off the court, not with a veteran team."
Phegley also can play forward, his position for two season at Bradley University. But Coach Dick Motta feels most of his playing time will come in the backcourt, where "he can take defenders down low along the baseline and shoot over them, a lot like Phil Chenier and Kevin do.
"He's a great shooter from the outside and the inside. People are going to like the way he puts the ball up. He gives us even more offensive strength."
Phegley flourished as a scorer in college once he was switched to guard after his sophmore season. With the bulk of the offense built around him, he averaged 27.4 points his junior year (eighth best in the nation) and 27.6 his senior season (fifth best). He also shot 55 percent as a junior and 54 as a senior. He was a career .855 marksman from the foul line.
Phegley said he played a lot of basketball over the summer "to try to stay in shape. I worked mostly at guard. I know I'm not near my potential as a guard or as a basketball player. I have work to do on offense and defense, especially on defense.
"I think playing defense is all mental. If you want to get out there and do the job, you will. If you don't feel like working, you won't be successful.I'm anxious to see how they play defense on this level. I've heard a lot about the pros, but you only know for sure once you start playing."