Traveling throughout the NBA, the Washington Bullets offer a number of startling sights. For example, there's the full-length mink guard Gus Williams often wears, a coat that dazzles onlookers in airports coast to coast.
Perhaps the most surprising sight is that of Jeff Malone. When he's not on the court, the Bullets' shooting guard -- one of the best marksmen in the league -- wears glasses.
Anyone who has seen the 6-foot-4 second-year man play realizes the irony. On any given night, Malone is likely to score 15 to 30 points from long range. The next day, Malone looks as if he almost is struggling to read the morning paper.
"I'm nearsighted and I can't see a thing without them," Malone said. "I've been wearing glasses since the 12th grade. But the key to my game is in the form. Even if I were blind, I'll still hit a few."
Springing off both legs, elbow tucked tightly, Malone's shot is punctuated by an extended right arm, with the wrist dangling loosely as he backpedals towards the defensive end of the floor.
Although some opponents consider that last element a bit fluffy, almost hot-doggish, Malone defends it as part of the total package.
"That's another thing I've been doing since high school," he said. "If I'm shooting the ball right, the extension and wrist snap just happens naturally. A lot of times that's how I know that the ball is going in. It feels good so I just leave it like that."
For the last two months, there's been a lot for Malone and the Bullets to feel good about. Entering the starting lineup during the team's last western road trip in December, the 23-year-old from Mississippi State since has proven to be the Bullets' most consistent performer.
Friday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers will mark Malone's 30th consecutive start. During that time, he has averaged 19.9 points a game on 52 percent shooting. During the run of injuries that has beset Washington in recent weeks, Malone has been even more impressive.
In the team's last 11 games, Malone has averaged 23.3 points, with at least 20 points in eight of the games. Included in that span was a career-high 34-point effort on Feb. 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In fact, Malone has played so well and been so consistent that some observers have wondered why he hasn't played a more prominent role in the team's offense. In recent games, a pattern has developed: a flurry of points by Malone early in the game, only to be followed by an almost equal stretch of relative inactivity.
Part of the problem is Coach Gene Shue's reluctance to depend too much on a single player. "What you want to happen is everybody getting off early," Shue said. "One of the worst things a coach can do is go too much to one player. The best thing happens when everybody is involved. There are more options, more players get to feel the ball."
Malone understands that philosophy, but it doesn't make living with it any easier. In Washington's 116-111 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 6, Malone chose not to comment on the situation. In the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's 109-94 loss here to the SuperSonics, he was visibly perturbed at being taken out of the game.
"It's nothing that I can't live with," Malone said during a practice that preceded the Bullets' flight to Portland. "It's just that when you're an offensive player and you get off early, you want to keep going. If you finish the first half with 25 points, you want to go on and get 35 or 40."
His recent output indicates he can get even better. "I've been shocked sometimes at how how well I've done," Malone said. "I've only been playing a year and a half, but now I can try to project myself four or five years down the line. I think I can be a great guard."
His thoughts differed at the start of the season. Following a rookie season in which he averaged 12 points and 24 minutes a game, Malone entered training camp hoping to win a starting position alongside newcomer Williams.
Instead, he found himself on the injured list for the first seven games due to a sprained right ankle.
"Last season, I had started a couple of games and they were two of the best I played all year. This season, I wanted to find out just what I could accomplish if I started all the time," Malone said. "The injury really hurt because I knew that when I came back, they'd take things really slow, a couple of minutes here and a couple there."
When he finally was ready to play, Malone saw defensive specialist Dudley Bradley starting at the big guard spot, a position Bradley kept for the first 24 games of the season.
With each game, however, it became increasingly obvious that, despite the addition of Williams and forward Cliff Robinson, the Bullets needed more offense. Then came the Bullets' December trip west. Malone scored 30 points in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 15; the following night, he was in the starting lineup.
It turned into the best move Shue had made this season, but as tangible as the results have been, they still have not come fast enough to suit Malone.
"I've had some pretty good games for the most part, but sometimes it seems like it doesn't register," he said. "I've scored some points but my average doesn't seem like it's going up. I guess the thing to do would be to start out at about 32 points a game and let it fall from there."
Spoken like a true scorer -- even one in glasses.