There is joy in the Kevin Porter household today. The former Bullet star guard thinks he may be coming home to Washington.
Saying he wanted to "pack my bags and leave today," and "I wish I had never left," Porter, a National Basketball Association free agent after playing out his contract with Detroit, was buoyed yesterday by the news that his attorney and the Bullets had discussed the possibility of his signing with Washington.
"They talked . . . about playing for them and if I was interested," Porter said. "There is no question I want to come back. I've always wanted to come back.
"They told us that now they have to get in contact with Detroit and see what kind of compensation the Pistons want. I think that will be the problem. I just hope something can be worked out."
Porter, who makes $175,000 a year, is seeking about $250,000. He said that amount "will allow me to end my career with the team I sign with.
"But for the Bullets, I'd cut down on my offer. It won't be hard for them to sign me. I want to play with them.
"I love the Washington fans, I love the area, I love the arena, everything about the Bullets. Five teams have contacted me about signing, but the Bullets would be No. 1.
"The Pistons need guards. I'm the only pure guard they have. Maybe they can work out a deal where Tom Henderson (also a free agent) and I get traded for each other."
Piston Coach Dick Vitale, who said he had not heard from the Bullets' general manager, Bob Ferry, declared yesterday that any team signing Porter "would not get away without giving us something good."
Vitale said "off the top of my head" he would accept "Mitch Kupchak as compensation.That's without giving this any thought. But we need someone who can fit into our immediate plans and give us help right away.
"First of all, we want to sign Kevin Porter. I've told my people that. But if we don't, we have to get quite a bit in compensation. He could be our catalyst for the future, he could give leadership to our young players.
"He did things last year that no other player in NBA history has done. I don't feel I'd like to give him up every easily."
Reminded that Kupchak has back problems, Vitale thought for a moment and replied, "Well, maybe they could toss in Larry Wright, too."
As far as Porter was concerned yesterday, the issue f compensation is something to be settled in the future. Now, he felt, "I have been blessed after giving up hope.
"I really never dreamed Washington would be interested in me," he said. "After all, they won a title last year and they seemed set. I had given up hope of coming back.
"I could help the Bullets quite a bit. I'd be willing to come off the bench behind Tom Henderson, anything that was necessary to help us win.
"On Television, I thought that Tommy should have taken it to Gus Williams (of Seattle) more to stop him from sitting back in his zone. Gus Williams can't handle me; no one in the league can stop me from going down the middle and doing what I want to do."
Porter has a basketful of impressive statistics to back up his boast. He averaged an NBA-record 13 assists a game this season while becoming the first player in league history to accumulate more than 1,000 assists in a year. He also was among the top five in minutes played and averaged the most points, 15.4, of his pro career.
During one 28-game stretch, Porter averaged an amazing 16 assists a game, with three games of more than 20 assists.
"And we haven't got a good shooting team," Vitale said.
"He's right," said Porter. "With Wes (Unseld) throwing outlet passes and the shooters the Bullets have and the way I penetrate, who knows what I can do with the Bullets?
"This was my third (assist title) trophy. I keep looking at those three trophies every day. That's my role. I live to make passes to the open man."
Porter said he has changed drastically since he played in Washington on that high-powered 1975 squad that compiled the league's best record before losing in the final round to Golden State, 4-0.
"I've accepted the Lord and that has changed everything," Porter said. "I have an inner peace, a peace of mind that I never had before.
"I had that reputation before (of being hard to handle). Not any more. I'm still an intense player, but I understand the game better. I realize it's a business now. I've got added confidence in myself.
"I don't take myself out of games mentally like I did so must in 1975. I don't fight things.And I am a better shooter. I look to the basket more. I knew I had to get better in that area. Now the defense has to wonder about what I will do when I have the ball.
"My defense has improved, too. And with the Bullets, it would be better. With Detroit and New Jersey, I had to be careful. I couldn't get into foul trouble because no one was on the bench who could replace me.
"With the Bullets, I could be more aggressive. And if I break down, that front line can protect me. Did I love playing with Wes and Elvin (Hayes) before. And having Pick (Bobby Dandridge) around will make me that much tougher."
Two years ago, Porter was struggling to save his career. He had torn up a knee in 1976 with Detroit and played only 19 games. Then he was involved in a stormy dispute with Piston Coach Herb Brown in 1977 that eventually led to his being traded to New Jersey. He was dealt back to Detroit before last season.
"When I left Washington, people said I was a troublemaker," Porter said, "but I got along with everyone at Washington. I never gave them any problems. It probably was good for me to get out of Washington at the time. It helped me learn a lot of things.
"I have no bitterness about leaving Dave Bing forced the trade. I really believe that. But now it would be tremendous to play for a coach like Dick Motta, he's one of the best. And Bernie Bickerstaff is a basketball brain."
Vitale, however, expects Detroit to make a serious bid for Porter before allowing him to go anywhere.
"He's learned my offense; we have a lot of time invested in him," Vitale said. "It would be stupid to let him go. But I don't get into negotiations. Our legal people handle that."
Porter said he and the Pistons "are so far apart it is like night and day. I think they want to save their money for their three first-round draft choices. They are committed to the future.
"I want to win, I want that (championship) ring so bad I can taste it. With Washington, I could get that ring."