The swarming defense of the Washington Bullets' blue team had taken away all of the options of the green. Eventually the center took an off-balance jump shot from about 17 feet. Immediately the whistle blew.
"That's a bad shot. We need better selection," said Coach Gene Shue as assistant Fred Carter nodded in agreement.
Manute Bol smiled. "Why are you teaching me these shots if you don't want me to take them?" he asked.
After a month of working in one-on-one drills, the 7-foot-7 rookie is finding the going a little tougher during the Bullets' training camp at Fort Meade. The problems have come mainly on offense as Bol tries to learn the team's extensive playbook.
"There are times when I'm not standing in the right spot and I feel bad, but most of the time I'm happy with what I've learned," Bol said. "There's just a lot of offense to learn. In the USBL (U.S. Basketball League, where he played this summer) they didn't worry about running plays."
It is Bol's defensive potential that makes him so attractive to the Bullets right now. When it comes to offense, the team is willing to wait.
"The way I view Manute, given his lack of basketball experience, if he were to pick everything up right away I'd be shocked," said Shue. "He's a great project that we want to develop. There's no rush whatsoever."
During summer workouts at Bowie State College, Shue and Carter spent most of their time teaching Bol the mechanics of shooting: rhythm, release points and form. Even so, there was still room for playfulness, and Bol was quick to throw a pass behind his back or shoot the ball from between his legs.
Training camp, though, is an entirely different scenario. On the first day, just before the start of the second session, Bol, shooting at a side basket, tried his trick shot. General Manager Bob Ferry pulled him aside a short time later and spoke to him quietly. The shot hasn't been seen since.
"He's a very serious player and he's very intelligent," Ferry said. "He just likes to play around."
More than one first-year player has had problems trying to adjust to Shue's offense. "Someone like (Dan) Roundfield, he's used to seeing plays and doing a lot of the same movements because he's a veteran," he said. "People like Kenny Green and Manute, it will take them a little longer. We probably throw more things at our guys than other teams. We have more sets and options."
Bol apparently has not been given the green light to shoot at will. "We've shown him how to do things, but what we really want him to concentrate on are the hook shots from the baseline and moving into the lane," said Shue.
Bol pleaded extenuating circumstances in the case of his woebegone jumper yesterday. "On the play I was supposed to hit the man cutting open, but nobody was free," he said. "There I am holding the ball and the 24-second clock was going off, so I shot it. Besides, I like to shoot."
The explanation was perfect, except that there was no 24-second clock running. Bol chose to ignore that little detail, laughing as he said, "Excuse me, I have to go win a job."
He's learning, he's learning.