Dave Kindred's column in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post incorrectly indicated that Mitch Kupchak is the third-highest paid Washington Bullet. The No. 3 man on the payroll is Phil Chenier.
Poor Bobby Dandridge.
He is underpaid.
He gets $250,000 a year.
He wants a raise right now.
If he doesn't get it, he wants the Bullets to trade him.
To show he means it, Dandridge made a threat.
If the Bullets don't give him more money or send him to a new team, he will quit trying to win games.
Just like that. Quit trying. Oh, he'll show up, he says. But when it comes down to the last minute or two, we should not expect Bobby Dandridge to do anything extraordinary to win a game for the Bullets.
Not my job, he says.
The way Dandridge has it figured, he is fourth in line when it comes to winning games. That's because he is the fourth-highest-paid Bullet, behind Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld and Mitch Kupchak.
I'm not making this stuff up. Here's what Dandridge told The Post's Paul Attner:
"The people who are getting the money are going to have to start picking up the slack instead of me busting my butt to win games they can.... It's proven to me that I shouldn't try to play over my head, but to stay in my salary bracket. Teams don't ask Jamaal Wilkes or Toby Knight to win games when they are five down with two to go. They turn to their highest-paid players."
The best you can say about Dandridge is that maybe this bullfeathers is not what he really feels. He has played superbly this season. No one has seen any evidence he is shirking his responsibilities. His integrity on the court is whole.
Yet it is unforgiveable that Dandridge would even say those words. They are confirmation to thousands of doubters that pro basketball players think of their bank accounts first, the game second. Here is a gifted player saying his commitment to victory is measured by how high Abe Pollin stacks money in front of him.
Pollin owns the Bullets, Caps, Capital Centre and large parts of Prince George's County. He is a businessman who believes a deal is a deal. You sign a contract with Pollin, it stays signed. He does not look for a way out. By writing his name at the bottom of a contract, he gives his word he will fulfill the stipulations of his contract.
But then, Pollin is not very tall and cannot throw a little ball into a big basket. Those are virtues that give Bobby Dandridge the gall to ask for a new contract when his old one still has two years to run. He is looking for a way out of what he now sees as a bad deal.
He didn't always think it was so bad.
On June 14, 1977, Dandridge was in negotiation with the Bullets. They sought to sign him as a free agent. Dandridge didn't think the Milwaukee Bucks paid him what he was worth. As far back as 1971, if you read old clippings, Dandridge was crying in public about the Bucks paying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson so much money while Dandridge got so little.
Anyway, Dandridge said in the summer of 1977, "I don't think reaching an agreement on a contract will be any problem." Sure enough, he agreed to the three-year deal at $250,000 a year.
He was so happy that in September hehad forgotten about the money. He loved the Bullets, he said. "I just wanted to play on a team which is conscientious, that wants to win and can get into the playoffs." Dandridge said that is why he signed with the Bullets. "It's not a matter of money," he said.
Three years at $250,000 a year is a nice contract. It protects the owner against his highpriced talent playing out his option quickly and moving into the free-agent market.And it is nice insurance for the player, who is paid whether or not he plays well. Phil Chenier was paid $300,000 last year and played only 36 games, sitting out the last five months with a bad back.
Dandridge was happy with his guaranteed $750,000.
That was before he had the best season of his career. Without him, the Bullets could not have won the NBA championship. If not as flamboyant, he yet is as effective as any small forward in basketball.
So now he wants to throw away that original contract and get a new one. He wants it to reflect his unexpected status as the man responsible for a championship, the man the Bullets turn to when they need a game-winning basket. If Elvin Hayes gets $450,000 and Wes Unseld $350,000, Dandridge doesn't want to be a mere quarter-million-dollar player.
The urge to skip to greener pastures is nothing new. Abe Pollin, in saying no to Dandridge's blackmail, might remind the basketball player of the Reindeer Bill Killefer case. In 1914, a judge aborted Killefer's attempt to jump from baseball's Phillies to the new Federal League. The judge said:
"This record shows that the defendant, Killefer, is a baseball player of unique, exceptional and extraordinary skill and expertness. Unfortunately, the record shows that he is a person upon whose pledged word little or no reliance can be placed, and who, for gain to himself, neither scruples nor hesitates to disregard and violate his express engagements and agreements.... Viewed from the standpoint of common honesty and integrity, his position in this litigation is not an enviable one."