The team in the white jerseys had just lost the practice-ending scrimmage yesterday at Smith Center, and the losing players were running their obligatory wind sprints.
Adrian Dantley, the National Basketball Association's leading scorer last season who is now on the Utah Jazz' suspended list because of a contract problem, ran with the white shirts. "Come on," George Washington University Coach Gerry Gimelstob yelled. "Don't let an old man beat you guys."
Dantley, 28, a 6-foot-5 forward/guard who played at DeMatha High School, has been called a lot worse lately, especially by Utah Coach/General Manager Frank Layden. Layden said recently: "I don't like being held hostage, and that's exactly what he's doing. What Dantley doesn't realize is that if I was President Carter, I would have gone in and bombed Iran to get the hostages out."
Dantley is in the final year of his contract with the Jazz. He says each game he misses is costing him $7,000, so that means his annual base salary is approximately $575,000. Dantley says published reports that he is seeking a seven-year contract worth $8.4 million are inaccurate. But he refuses to comment further about his contract situation with the Jazz, whose $1.9 million payroll was the lowest in the NBA last season.
Sitting on the basket support, after practicing hard for three hours yesterday with the GW team, Dantley chose his words carefully.
"Believe it or not, I want them to win. It's not a thing where I want to prove anything. I love basketball. I don't think anybody works harder at the game than I do. It's really difficult to talk about. I'd never believe something like this would happen to someone like me. I've always had class. That's not me (to respond to Layden's statements)."
Meanwhile, on the Smith Center court, he is just another player taking orders from Gimelstob, running all drills the other players do in the 2 1/2-hour workout. Afterward, GW's volunteer coach, as Gimelstob calls Dantley, worked one on one with small forwards Darryl Webster and Chester Wood. He also works out at night on one-on-one guard play and stamina work under Doc Robinson, an old friend and youth coach now an assistant coach at the University of the District of Columbia.
Gimelstob invited Dantley to practice with GW when he ran into him Oct. 19 at a Bullets' exhibition doubleheader at Capital Centre.
"This is the way it is in an NBA practice," Dantley said. "I can't get this working one on one or on the playgrounds . . . I got two coaches telling me what to do. The workouts here are structured. The workouts with Coach Robinson are really hard. I wanted somebody telling me what to do . . . "
GW ends practice by having two players shoot free throws until they make two in a row each. After each miss, the entire team runs wind sprints. The first day Dantley practiced with the team, he missed five before making two, switching to his own ball. Everybody, including Dantley, ran five wind sprints.
Yesterday, Gimelstob chose Darryl Webster and Dantley to shoot the practice-ending free throws. Webster made his, and Dantley took his own ball to the foul line. The first one swished through the net. "Make it," Wood said, before Dantley took the second. "You're getting a big bonus next week."
The second shot swished, too, ending practice.
Dantley had practiced daily until last Friday, when he took three days in a row off.
"I had to," he said. "These practices are like war. They got me scared to go to the basket, and that's what I like to do best. They give me an elbow, or they get in front of me and take those charges."
"It's good for us, because he's quick and very strong," said Mike Brown, the team's 6-10, 260-pound center. "He's a real good guy. Everybody on the team enjoys him."
Gimelstob said, "He's really unselfish with his time. Here's a pro who's not getting paid, and he's running as hard as anybody at 4 o'clock (the end of practice). I don't know what he's asking, but he's worth every penny of it."