Forward Dan Roundfield, a 10-year veteran, stood in the Washington Bullets' locker room following their 85-78 NBA preseason-opening win over the New York Knicks, talking about Patrick Ewing and reminiscing.
"The hype really doesn't change, just the names," he said. "The year I came into the league, there was David Thompson and people thought he'd be the second coming of Jesus Christ. In my rookie year, I didn't get much time. I had to just go with the flow. Sometimes it takes a little longer."
Perhaps that's the difference between being selected in the second round of the draft, as Roundfield was, and being the No. 1 pick overall, as Ewing was. But whatever the position, for many of those present Friday night for Ewing's professional debut, it was an occasion prompting a look back at their first days in play-for-pay.
"I was scared to death," said Washington Coach Gene Shue, a first-round pick by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1954. "Philadelphia wasn't paying any money, so I held out and reported late to camp. A couple of days later, we were in Canada playing an exhibition game.
"I remember being very shy and not having an understanding of the pro game. I probably always played well but not that night. I think I looked kind of crazy out there."
Forward Cliff Robinson of the Bullets was another first-round choice. When the New Jersey Nets selected him in 1979 as an early eligible, he was just 19. "I remember thinking I wasn't refined enough," he said. "It wasn't like I had been a four-year college player who had been on these NCAA playoff teams. I had to learn while trying to produce at the same time.
"I think the hype over players is much worse now. Guys like Ewing and Michael Jordan getting these enormous contracts blows everything up. People expect them to come out and be able to go a few rounds with the big boys."
Ewing's teammate on the Knicks, guard Rory Sparrow, was a fourth-round pick of the Nets in 1980. Cut in the preseason, he played a year in the Continental Basketball Association before finally catching on. "I was always digging, trying to just get in there," he said. "There must really be pressure on someone like Patrick. They know him. He can't sneak up on anyone."
Great expectations are usually associated with a team's top draft choice, yet somehow the formula has altered for the Bullets' Manute Bol, a 7-foot-7 second-rounder, who has gotten much more publicity than the first-round choice.
Kenny Green, selected by the Bullets 19 places in front of Bol, didn't enter Friday's game until the second period, then suffered a case of the jitters, going zero for three from the field.
"I have to get used to what's goin' on out there," Green said. "It was like I was playing for the first time again."
Green said he understands that many might think that's an improper response from the No. 12 choice in the draft. "I wasn't too pleased with my performance but that's what exhibitions are for," he said.