The Washington Bullets have told veteran forward Bob Dandridge, who has yet to report to training camp, that they are prepared to play the season without him.
Team owner Abe Pollin also informed Dandridge's attorney, Scott Lang, that the club will not back off on refusing to discuss questions about the player's contract.
"I think they have taken an extremely unwise position," said Lang. "But at least we are clear on their thinking. I don't think they are really focusing in on the problem. They are more concerned with principle than with a realistic approach to the problem.
"Now we have to decide what we are going to do. There is a possibility Bobby and I will get together with them, but I don't hold much hope out that we will be talking at all about his contract."
Dandridge says he has no interest in sitting out the season, although neither he nor Lang will rule out that possibility. They say other alternatives would be a trade, retirement or return to the team.
"I think the original point in all this is now overshadowed. It's becoming a test of wills and that is unfortunate."
Dandridge is being fined $100 for everyday of practice he misses and $250 for every exhibition game. So far, he had lost $1,450.
Dandridge began his holdout 12 days ago when he reported to a team meeting, then left camp before the first practice of the preseason. He said he wanted to resolve some personal business problems involving off-season real estate and promotional deals while also giving the Bullets a chance to discuss his contract.
The two parties had talked about the contract - and Dandridge's desire to gain what he terms "better future security" - earlier in the summer without coming to an agreement. But as soon as Dandridge left camp, Pollin cut off the talks and has told Lang the matter is now closed.
At issue is Dandridge's desire to gain parity with three higher paid members of the team, Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Phil Chenier. Dandridge is earning about $250,000 a year, the other three at least $50,000 more.
Both he and Lang feel that, considering his importance to the club during its march to the NBA title last season, he should have his three-year contract sweented. Dandridge signed the pact last season after playing out, his option with Milwaukee.
Lang maintains that Dandridge is not trying to renegotiate the contract, but, rather, wants some long-term commitments that would extend his earning power.
"We never really have talked specifically about what items we want," said Lang. "But you could have stock options or a contract extension or you could work for the club during the offseason.
"Sure, he is being paid an attractive salary.But if you look around the league and at his own team, it's not in balance. We think they should recognize his increased worth to the team."
Lang said the "entire situation could have been avoided if the Bullets had given us an answer to our contract questions in August, like we thought we would. If they didn't want to discuss anything, they should have said so then.
"Fairness goes two ways. But when one party subjectively decides what is fair for both parties, then that doesn't lead to a good foundation for future relationships.
"They are hiding behind a cloak of principle regarding renegotiation. But in the real world, contracts are adjusted and supplemented all the time to reflect the changes in someone's life.
"We think that as far as contract parity goes, he doesn't match up with three other guys on the team, but he's asked to do more on the court. He wasn't a flash in the pan last year. He will keep on doing what he did until he gets too old.
"This boils down now to two basic questions.Do the Bullets want to be a championship team again? And does Bob want to play basketball this season?
"I think it's safe to say that if he plays basketball this season, it will be in Washington. But that is the only thing I feel sure about right now."
Without Dandridge, the Bullets have lost their first three exhibition games. They end a road trip tonight against the Rockets in Houston before returning home tomorrow.