"From the beginning we were up front with these kids. We've told them all along that their chances of making this team were not very good." -- Bullets' Coach Dick Motta
There were 12 players with a dream on hand when the Washington Bullets started training camp last Friday. Only five remain. By the end of the weekend several more could be cut.
Most of the players knew how small their chances were of making this team; the Bullets are talented and they are deep. And only 11 can make the squad.
"We've got some good young kids," Motta said, "and some of them do have a shot at making it. Not a good shot, but it's a shot. If Mitch (Kupchak) and Phil (Cheiner) were here, they wouldn't have any shot at all.
"Every kid left in camp can play. If they can play good enough, I don't know . . . they just have to bust their butts and see what happens."
The surviving hopefuls and their thoughts about what they're doing:
Steve Malovic is a 6-foot-10 centerforward rookie from San Diego State. The Bullets traded their No. 1 draft choice in the 1979 draft to the Phoenix Suns for the rights to him.
Malovic was drafted as a "future eligible" by the Suns in 1978, but elected to remain in school. He has been sidelined the last couple of days by a sore back. He is a hustler who has a good outside shot for a big man.
"I'm not sure what my chances are of making it," he said. "I'm a little insecure right now because I have been hurt and they are playing me more at center and center isn't my best position. I think that with patience I could develop into a good big forward, but I don't know if I'll ever be a pro center. They could be playing me at center just to give them three teams. I don't know because they don't explain things like that to rookies.
"I would think that they wouldn't have traded for me if they didn't think I had a spot on the team, but I can't look at it that way. I still have to prove I can play.
"It's not in my hands if I make it or not. All I can do is play as hard as I can and not give them any trouble. They're still talking to me, though, so that has to be good. When they stop talking to you is when you get worried."
Gus Bailey is a 6-5, four-year NBA veteran guard, who has played for Houston and New Orleans. He spent most of last season with Reno of the Western Basketball League, where he led his team in assists and rebounding and was second in scoring. He is considered to be a defensive specialist and is the only newcomer with any NBA experience.
"I understand the odds are really against me," he said. "I know Phil (Chenier) can come back at any time and that numbers become a factor.
"I think I provide the defense the Bullets need at guard, though. They already have all of the shooters they need back there. I'm just trying to fill a void. With guys like Dennis Johnson, Magic Johnson and George Gervin, every team needs a good defensive big guard.
"I watched the playoffs on television and I said to myself, 'Put me in. I can stop DJ (Dennis Johnson) and Gus (Williams),' Defense is my thing. I think I'm one of the best defensive guards in the league, but I realize there are days when you just can't stop a guy. On those days you just can't give him anything cheap.
"But it all still comes down to a game of numbers and that's out of my hands. It's up to the front office."
Charlie Floyd, 6-7 rookie forward from High Point was the Bullets' third-round draft choice. He is a fluid player in the mold of Bob Dandridge and the Bullets have been very high on him from the first day of camp.
"Originally, they drafted me as a backup to Bob Dandridge and that is my objective. I feel my chances right now are 50-50. It will depend on how well I play in the exhibition games and in practice.
"One of the things I've learned quick is how to adjust and that's what I think the coaches look for in young players -- who can make the necessary adjustment. If I didn't feel I could make the team I wouldn't be here. But it's all up to the man. What he says goes."
Norman Black is a 6-6 rookie free agent from St. Joseph's. He is a good shooter and defender whom the Bullets are trying at big guard as well as at forward.
"It has to help me that I can play two positions, but I still can't see myself guaranteed a spot," he admitted.
"I was the last man on the list when I got here, and I'm still here, so that says something, I guess.
"I've come to realize that it's not how many points you put in the basket, it's execution and making the least amount of mistakes.
"I realistically don't know what my chances are, but the Bullets were the only team to give me a shot. I wasn't drafted by anybody."
Garcia Hopkins is a 6-5 forward from Morgan State. He was drafted by the Bullets in the sixth round as a "hardship" player after only two seasons at Morgan. Hopkins, who is from DuVal High School, is the best leaper in camp.
"The only thing I can do is go out and do the best I can and just hope to be around. I'm doing everything they tell me to do," he said.
"I know I can impress the people, but can I impress the coaches?They are looking for different things.
It boils down to what they need. I think I would be a good small forward for the Bullets because I don't think any small forward in the NBA can outjump me.
"I want to be apart of the Bullets and I'm doing everything I can to succeed. I go out and play 100 percent all of the time. I have to. Maybe some of the veterans don't because they know what it's all about, but I'm just learning."