One day last week, Kevin Porter showed up at the gym at Fort Meade and, for the first time since he had suffered a torn Achilles' tendon on the same court 10 months before, he began playing basketball.
At first, George Porter took the lead against his big brother Kevin. But even in this friendly game of one-on-one, Kevin Porter could not allow it to continue.
Using all 10 years of his NBA experience, Kevin began posting his slightly taller brother, a sophomore guard at Wabash College, faking him high in the air, and then flicking the ball through the net. A couple of long set shots brought Kevin even, and then, with something just short of the stutter step that gave the Little Drum Major his name, Porter drove by his brother for an easy lay-up and finally a lead.
Two instant replays later and George had no other choice: "Travel," he called. It seemed logical; nobody coming off one of the most serious injuries in sports should be able to legally move that fast.
Still, while time has healed the pain of Kevin Porter's wound, it has in no way erased the memory of it.
"It was such a freaky accident. I wasn't doing anything strenuous," said Porter, pointing to the exact spot on the floor where his 1981-82 season ended before it even began.
"I just turned, made a quick move, and it popped. It was one of the worst feelings I ever had. Felt like somebody took a paddle and slapped me back here." Porter held up the lower part of his leg. "The tendon just rolls right up."
At 32, Porter admits he is "old" for basketball, but still, more than anything else, he wants to play--in Washington, if possible, though he is not counting on it.
"John Lucas had some problems last year, but he's trying to come back, and Frank Johnson had a great year," said Porter. "No doubt they have three point guards here. I'm sure they're going to have to move somebody. If it's me, you have to accept those things."
One thing he can't accept is giving up his career, despite the long odds of coming back. Several NBA players, Phil Smith and Nate Archibald, for example, have recovered from torn Achilles' tendons. Porter admits both were significantly younger when they did it.
"I had read and heard about the injury, but you don't really appreciate, or hate, I should say, the thing until it happens to you, because it supports all the weight on your body," Porter said, adding that his leg is about 80 percent recovered.
"Physically I'm okay, but it's the mental aspect I'm trying to fight. When I stepped back on the court, I was really kind of hesitant. I had been jogging straight ahead about two or three miles a day, but on the court it's a totally different story as far as all the change of direction and stop-and-go action."
Porter said the doctors had given him only a 50-50 chance of ever playing again. He calls the rehabilitation involved now "much tougher" than after a knee injury he suffered in Detroit in 1975. Now he must build up his entire leg, not just the knee.
"I'm just at the point of my career where I don't have anything to hold back," said Porter. "I might as well blow it out. If it gets hurt again it's just going to be that way."
Bob Ferry, Bullets general manager, sees more question marks than standout guards crowding his back court at this time.
"Two of my point guards are trying to come back (Porter and Lucas), and (Kevin) Grevey's also hurt (sore knee)," said Ferry. "Then we have two rookies coming in (Bryan Warrick and Dwight Anderson)." Asked if a completely healthy Porter could make the Bullets, Ferry said, "Sure."
"They (Bullet management) are not putting any demands on me," said Porter. "They realize you are a human being and you have to do what's right for you. I appreciate that in the Washington Bullets."
Ahead for Porter is the Bullets camp in October, something both to look forward to and to dread. "A (Coach Gene) Shue camp," Porter said, shaking his head. "You've got to do those suicides, run a mile in under six minutes. That will be the test."
Porter likened this year to when he first began with the Bullets and had to break into a lineup of Archie Clark, Mike Riordan and Phil Chenier. "I would like to lengthen my career by a couple of years, but if I can't then I will just go on to other aspects of life," Porter said.
He also sees himself as the underdog once again, a role he played and enjoyed as a 5-foot-11, third-round draft choice out of St. Francis (Pa.) College trying to make the Baltimore Bullets in 1972.
"When I came into the league, people were expecting me to play only two or three years at the most," Porter said. "Well, I'm still here and I'm still battling. And it's going to be that way until the end of my career."