At the introduction of Bobby dandridge, the Capital Centre customers roared, "Deeeeee." And like wind around a building's edge came "EEEEEE," the eerie love signal reserved for Elvin Hayes. But for Kevin Grevey, a basketball leper, the 19,035 people averted their eyes. His appearance on court was an embarrassment. The most they gave him was a pat-pat of courtesy applause. Jack the Ripper in a Bullet jersey would be treated more kindly.
"I heard the boos," Grevey said.
He made them into cheers.
A shooter in a slump in a miserable man.
Grevey makes his $160,000 a year, or thereabouts, by throwing a ball into a hole. He is an earnest worker at defense, though no one will ever mistake him for a young Walt Frazier, and he gives a full day's work for his dollar. But he's in the bigs because you cannot give him the open 17-footer. He'll bury it.
At least he used to. In four seasons with the Bullets, he is a 44 percent shooter. That number is distorted downward by the Bullets' philosophy of telling the guards to shoot at will, letting fire even from the Beltway to keep defenses from sagging on Hayes and Dandridge. Besides, Hayes and Wes Unseld will beat up people to get the rebounds.
Over the last 10 days, though, Grevey came to believe he was shooting a beach ball at a wedding ring. An All-America at Kentucky because he could shoot, a first-round draft choice because he could shoot, converted from reserve forward to starting guard because he could shoot - suddenly, Grevey could not shoot.
When he shot five for 12 and four for 14 in consecutive losses to Atlanta that tied the first-round playoff series at three games apiece, Grevey was seen as part of a fatal guard problem. Without the guards' help, it was said, the Bullets could not win Game 7.
The morning of Game 7, Grevey read the local newspapers. "Grevey, Henderson may be Gone if the Bullets Lose," a headline said.
That afternoon, Grevey made one of eight shots. But with Hayes and Dandridge scoring 68 points, the Bullets won anyway. Grevey wanted to believe his 35.9 percent shooting in the playoff series was testimony to Atlanta's wonderful defense.
By then, people were talking about Grevey's slump.
Maybe Jerry West could talk about slumps. From bed, West could make a last-second jumper to win. West believed in his shooting infallibility. Grevey wants to believe in his-"I kept telling myself, 'I' Kevin Grevey and I'm a great shooter and, by God, I deserve to do better'-but that pep talk is evidence in itself that he has human doubts.
Those doubts were fed by the petty yammerings of Terry Furlow, the Atlanta Hawks' guard who said Grevey wouldn't make it in the NBA with any team but the Bullets. Grevey said such talk made him feel like a dog. On Wednesday of the next week, two days before the San Antonio series would start, Grevey felt like a dog $250 poorer. He was fined for being late to practice. Misery comes in bunches.
"Kevin is a person who likes to portray a happy-go-lucky person, but he keeps a lot inside," said Norman Grevey, his father. The elder Grevey, sons Brian, 19, and Norman Jr., 11, and daughter Jill came to visit Kevin the day before the San Antonio series started.
"He was feeling terrible," Norman Grevey said.
In the first game, Kevin made one of nine shots and the Bullets lost.
"I'd never been in a slump before, except maybe two or three games," he said. "Nothing of this magnitude-especially in a playoff situation. I knew it had to be mental, but in a game I kept pressing."
Friends wanted to help. They called. Grevey's father answered the phone and said Kevin wasn't in. Kevin quit reading newspapers. When the rim looks no bigger than a wedding ring, talking about it doesn't help.
Wes Unseld went to Grevey. "He told me, 'Keep shooting, baby, because if you miss I'll be there to knock it back in,'" Grevey said. The Bullets' owner, Abe Pollin, sought out Grevey at a practice before Game 2. "Everybody was on my side," Grevey said. "This is a class organization."
The irony there, of course, is that the organization might have relieved some of Grevey's pressure in these playoffs by signing him to a new contract during this season instead of putting it off until season's end.
Now on the last year of his existing contract, Grevey soon may be a free agent. He knows his value will be affected by his playoff work.
He spoke of it obliquely Sunday afternoon, maybe an hour after ending his slump with an eight-for-14 performance that reaffirmed how important a shooting guard is to the Bullets.
"This is such a big time in my life," Grevey said at first. "And I don't want to look back 10 years from now and say, 'If I'd done this or that . . .'"
Did he mean this is a "big time because there is a contract to be done? Did that add to the pressures?
"I think it does," Grevey said.
He spoke of Mike Riordan, a former Bullet whose stock went down after a disappointing playoff series in 1975, and Grevey mentioned Dick Gibbs. "All Gibbs did was miss two layups," Grevey said, "and they were ready to hang him by his toes."
Gibbs' missed layups came when the Bullets lost the championship series to Golden State in 1975. The Bullets lost in four straight games, an outcome that could hardly be reversed by two layups. Gibbs was traded away that summer.
"People tend to remember what you have done in the last game," Grevey said.
Grevey wants to stay with the Bullets. "I love this town, I love this team and I'd hate to leave. Just because I'm a free agent doesn't mean I want to leave. I just want my fair value and I want to stay here. I have my home here and my friends here."
Now that Grevey's jump shot has returned as mysteriously as it vanished-all he can figure is that he went to dinner with his family and forgot about everything for an hour or two-Grevey says a 10-ton weight has been lifted from his shoulders. He can smile again. This playoff may be fun yet.
Grevey even answered the phone himself yesterday.
"And I read the newspaper today," he said. CAPTION: Picture, no caption