Bob Dandridge stopped in midsentence and shifted his tenses.

"I've done things in my career that few have exceeded," said Dandridge. "I still feel that I can compete and I will come back."

Dandridge has always been known for his transition game. Here, he was driving into the past -- an era of 15,478 points, four All-Star Games and two NBA titles -- and applying to the future.

Some people think Dandridge won't make this transition as successfully as he had made others. These people know Dandridge is 33. They know he is a veteran of 12 NBA seasons. They know his knees have eroded, that they caused him to miss 59 games with the Washington Bullets last year and that they might have fast-break capabilities any longer.

These people think Bob Dandridge is finished.

"People will judge me on what I did last year," Dandridge said. "The fact is, I did nothing last year. All of those things in the past are irrelevant now. I will be judged on what happens now, not on what has happened in the past."

Dandridge does not know where he will play next year. Unlike Mitch Kupchak, he has not been offered $900,000 a year for seven years by Jerry Buss. He has not been in the news. This is not like 1978, the first time he tried free agency. Then, there was great interest in Bob Dandridge. Now, there is mostly intrigue. And doubt.

"I have a couple of places in mind," he said. "I have spoken with a few teams where I would want to go, but I can't disclose them.

"My attorney (Scott Lang) has talked with the Bullets a couple of times, just to touch base, really. I'm not sure whether they (the Bullets) are planning on having a competitive team next year. They are planning to trade away the veterans and go with the younger guys."

Bob Ferry, the Bullet general manager, said simply: "We will wait and talk with Bob when the time comes." Ferry does not seem in any hurry to confer with Dandridge, who is he third-oldest player in the NBA, behind Elvin Hayes, 35, whom the Bullets recently traded to Houston for two second-round draft picks, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 34.

One Bullet official expressed the situation more overtly: "It would be a reasonable assumption to say that he (Dandridge) won't be here next year."

It seems almost absurd to hear Dandridge associate his carrer with irrelevance. First, there was 1971, when he, Oscar Robertson and Abdul-Jabbar led the Milwaukee Bucks to a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA final.

Then there was 1978, when Dandridge and Hayes led the Washington Bullets to the NBA title in a seven-game series with Seattle. That was Dandridge's first year with the Bullets, after his first venture into free agency.

Finally, there is 1971-1980 -- the years of Bob Dandridge -- when he averaged between 17.4 and 21.5 per game. Consistency.

Dandridge played in 23 gamers last season and averaged only 10 points, his worst output.Even in his rookie year in 1970, he produced 13.2 a game. He injured his knee in the 11th game of last season, Nov. 1 against the Knicks, and the diagnosis was strained cartilage. He returned for the final 15 games and played as a reserve for the first time in his professional career.

Last year, while he recuperated, Dandridge turned from free throws to escrows. "I have become somewhat interested in real estate," said Dandridge, who is living in Alexandria with his wife, Barbara, and their 6-year-old daughter. "I think one thing I found out last year is that the business world is a lot more competitive than the athletic world. People come at you from all angles.

"There were times last year when I would go out to lunch for business purposes. But the people I met were more interested in telling other people that they had had lunch with Bob Dandridge than they were in helping me out with my career. Then there were times when I would drive people to the airport at 6 or 7 in the morning and I would see other people driving to work. aYou know, at that time of day there are not too many smiling faces.

"I think I've learned what it's like to work 9 to 5," said Dandridge, a social welfare major at Norfolk State who graduated in 1969. "It made me think of something Larry Costello, who wasn't my favorite coach, once told our team in Milwaukee: 'You guys have the best job in the world,' he told us. Last year, I realized that was true.

"We have to deal with these problems of celebrity status. These problems aren't really so bad, though. Things could be a lot worse for me.

"Basketball is still a demanding profession. Each time I step on the court, whether it's in the Urban Coalition or in the NBA, I'm constantly challenged. At some time, you want to sit back and enjoy life and get away from the constant challenges."