He does not play with the flair of Kevin Porter or the physical dominance of Elvin Hayes, but Bob Dandridge, in his quiet way, has taken charge of the Washington Bullets and subtely led them through difficult times.
The Bullets have won two in a row and three of their last four games and have a change to reach .500 tonight in Piscataway, N.J. against the New Jersey Nets (WDCA-TV-20 at 8 p.m.)
Over the last four games. Dandridge has averaged 24.8 points, eight assists and 8.8 rebounds. His defense has been just as impressive. He held San. Antonio's Larry Kenon to 10 points, 12 below his average, a week ago and he limited the Knicks Toby Knight, a 22-point-a-game scorer, to six Tuesday in New York.
"He just comes to the arena and does his job night after night after night," said Coach Dick Motta.
Even though he missed four games earlier in the season because of a foot injury, Dandridge is off to one of its best starts averaging 22.1 points a game.
When he did return to the lineup the Bullets were 2-3 and they went to to lose three of their next four. Dandridge was scoring well, but was not getting the ball is as much as Motta wanted.
Dandridge needs the ball to create situations, not just for himself, but for his teammates.
Once the ball started going to him more, the Bullets started playing better. When Dandridge positions him self on the side, he is like another guard. When primary playmaker Porter is stalled, he can give the hall to Dandridge, revolving the offense his way. Dandridge then becomes the playmaker and that causes problems for the defense while giving the Bullets more offensive options.
"Bobby could be the best player I've ever been around," Motta said, "I mean all-around player -- offense, defense transition and knowledge of the clock and situations."
Dandridge said the team has "tried to get the ball to me more and we seem to work better as a team if I have the ball a lot. If I'm in shape, we tend to run a lot better and I'm getting in pretty good shape."
The Bullets ran better against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday than they have at any time this season, winning, 118-105, at Capital Centre. They scored 35 points off fast-break situations. They had 32 fast-break points against the Spurs.
Motta said he can see improvement in his team every game, "amd I expected that," he said. "When we were struggling I said one of the things we needed was to play more games."
The Bullets have played fewer games, than any other team in the league, but tonight's will be their fifth in eight nights and they play again Saturday against the Utah Jazz at Capital Centre.
The nets are having problems, but they played one of their best games Tuesday burying the Atlanta Hawks, 101-82.
Their top scorer is still muscleman guard John Williamson, who is averaging 21 points a game, but rookie forward Calvin Nutt has been impressive, averaging 17.7 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Natt, from Northeast Louisiana, is only 6-foot-5, but his game is mostly inside, so Motta said he will put Hayes on the rookie. Phil Chenier will start on Williamson.
The Bullets had an optional practice yesterday . . . Mitch Kupchak is on schedule and may be activated sometime next week. General Manager Bob Ferry reportedly has been trying to work a deal so he won't have to cut anyone when he does activate Kupchak . . . Motta said he was particularly pleased with Larry Wright's performance against the Bulls. Wright had not been playing well for much of the season, but broke out of his slump against the Bulls with a season-high 18 points.
"A game like that has to really help him," Motta said. "He feels a lot more confident now." One reason for Wright's success against Chicago is that it was a wide-open, fast-breaking game, the situation that best fits his skills. He is the speediest Bullet and in an open-court situation is virtually unstoppable. It is with the slow down patterned game that Wright has problems.
Motta played Porter and Chenier in the first and third quarters against Chicago and Wright and Roger Phegley in the second and fourth. That strategy kept everybody fresh. "My basic pattern is to have the second unit in there by the second quarter and go with them as long as they do well," Motta said.