This could well be Bobby Dandridge's last season with the Washington Bullets.
Dandridge, now in his third week as a training camp holdout, reiterated yesterday that he will be in uniform, probably as a Bullet, by opening day Oct. 13.
But he also made it clear that, unless the club will at least "sit down and talk to me about what I want," he won't be happy playing for Washington any more.
"I havent asked to be traded, nor have I suggested it," said Dandridge, who is in the second year of a $250,000, three-year pact. "But I can't believe that they would want to keep an unhappy player around. If you told your boss you were unhappy, I'm sure he'd tell you to leave. The Bullets certainly will operate the same way. And I would hope they would do it as soon as possible.
Dandridge is beginning to see the over what he considers unfair treatment by the club. He said yesterday he is aware of "at least two individuals who got something changed or altered in their contracts" since the Bulletswon the NBA title last spring, "but they won't talk to me at all."
"Thee people were contributors, but they weren't the major cogs in our winning," said Dandridge, who did no name the players. "I also know they have talked to another player about his contract this summer.
"So much for the so-called principle they are standing behind when dealing with me. They don't even know what I want to do with my contract. We have never had a chance to tell them specifically what it is, whether it's monetary or maybe employment with them after my career ends.
"If I said to them, 'I want 20 percent of the gate because everyone is coming to see me play,' then they should say no. But they won't even listen to me."
Bulle General Manager Bob Ferry, however denied yesterday that the club has changed any existing contract. That's not true at all. We've had no reason to."
"Sure we've talked to players whose contracts are running out this season. But that is different. We are talking then about new contracts beginning next year, and not about their present contracts." Three Bullets - Kevin Grevey, Elvin Hayes and Tom Henderson - are in the last year of their pacts.
Dandridge said he has all but eliminated any thought of "sitting out the season. I could do it financially. If you have been in this league nine years and can't sit out one, you've wasted those nine seasons.
"But I'm going to play. I refuse to let one man (team owner Abe Pollin) force me out of basketball, just because they aren't interested in compensating me properly for the job I'm doing for the team.
"Hey, it's good to have principles; we all do. But I've been trying to keep this above board and not take any cheap shots. They are making me out to be the villain and that's not true.
"I have three or four years left in my career. And no one man or organization is going to prevent, me from playing those years. I still believe this is a free society.
"It will be up to me to convince him (Pollin) during the course of this season that my present working conditions aren't favorable to either of us and should be changed.
"When I came to Washington last year, I was hoping it would be my last stop in the NBA. But even if I wind up somewhere else, I will keep my ties here. I like the area and the people and I still like the team."
Dandridge and his attorney, Scott Lang, met for three days last weekend to discuss the situation. Lang said the one thing that emerged from the talks "was my feeling that Bobby needs at least one sign from the Bullets that they are going to demonstrate some flexibility in their approach with him, both as a person and as a player.
"They have to realize this is a two-fold problem. Bobby is a proud person and he has a right to be upset by what is going on. He deserves the courtesy of them at least sitting down and listening to his specific proposals."
Although Dandridge downplays the possibility of sitting out the season, Lang still says that is a viable alternative. "We are doing a feasibility study right now to see if he can make enough from a year away from basketball to stay out. But we don't want that to happen if possible."
It seems highly unlikely that Dandridge will rejoin the club this week. The Bullets play three exhibition games in the next four days and he would not get the conditioning drills he says he needs. A more probable reporting time would be early next week, after the exhibition season.
"When I come back, I'll play up to the same standards I always have played to," he said. "My last year in Milwaukee was very unhappy, but it was one of my best statistically.
"I would feel better if I could go back and talk with the players and the media and get it all over in a few weeks. But I'm sure they will want me to meet with Ferry and Pollin and (Jerry) Schs and I don't want to go through all that. I'm disappointed in how some things have gone the last few months and I just don't need to talk about those things again.
"There is no reason for me to be unhappy here. But they are taking a short-cut stance, in terms of what we accomplished last year and our future aspirations as a team. Now you are going to have sellouts where we didn't before and you got people in D.C. identifying with the club but you won't recognize the intangibles that I contributed to that success.
"It's a matter now of getting in the proper frame of mind to play. I have to be at peace with myself. And I have to pick the time when I think it will be acceptable.
"But I'm sure some where some team has room for a guy who has helped win two NBA titles. I'm sure of that."