Life as a member of the Washington Bullets has presented a bit of a quandary for Leon Wood. Take the headbands that adorn his closely cropped head, for instance. Does he don the stylish blue one that's manually tied in the back, or the traditional, elasticized white one?
And then there's the bigger picture, one he's thought about ever since the original headband man, Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, started celebrating touchdowns by bopping helmets with his teammates. So how is Wood supposed to react to success on the court?
Right now, he's not sure. "Maybe I can run around and start bumping guys in the chest with my head after they score," he said.
Wood, who said that he only "wants to win and have a good time," has been placed upon a team that has experienced some success over the years but has looked awfully dull in accomplishing it. Acquiring an exciting player had been a management priority even before his arrival from Philadelphia on Jan. 10 in a trade for No. 1 draft choice Kenny Green.
In June 1984, the Bullets traded for Cliff Robinson and Gus Williams. Both men are fine players but, along with all-star guard Jeff Malone, they are three of the coolest, most stylish men in the league.
Leon Wood is not cool. In fact, he's presently bordering on hyperactive. Since joining the Bullets, the second-year guard has averaged 17 points and four assists in 25 minutes a night, in the process revving up fans at Capital Centre with his noticeably exciting and excitable style of play. The headbands, worn simply to keep the sweat out of his eyes, are just part of the package.
"Leon is playing like he wants to be here (in the NBA) for a while," said Isiah Thomas, the Detroit Pistons' all-star guard.
Wood's month with the Bullets can be likened to the experience of a baby that stands on its own two legs and walks for the first time, then begins to test the parameters of this new and wondrous process.
Three-point field goals? He has made 14 in 36 attempts with the Bullets. Mad drives to the basket with the occasional between-the-legs pass thrown in? Why not? Off-balance heaves, which draw nothing but air and have to fall into the category of bad shots? There have been more than a few of those, too.
"I want to be a complete player, but right now I have no idea what that means, where I could go or how good I could be," said Wood. "I feel like things are coming around; sometimes it's the shooting, sometimes I think I play good defense. It's coming around, but I know that there's a long way to go."
Since his electrifying debut with Washington -- four career highs in points in his first week, peaking at 30 against the New Jersey Nets on Jan. 17 -- Wood has cooled somewhat. A seven-for-20 performance against the Pistons dropped his field goal accuracy to 42 percent since joining the Bullets.
"I know I can shoot the ball. Right now, I've been more of a scorer than a shooter," said Wood. "Jeff Malone is a pure shooter -- he's going to hit more than half his shots. A scorer, though, is going to shoot 43 percent, take more shots to get his points. That's what I'm going through now."
Washington Coach Gene Shue is giving Wood a wide berth in his personal feeling-out process. Though he was the 10th pick in the 1984 draft, Wood sat on the bench for most of his stay with the 76ers. Shue knows that Wood still has to find out what he can and cannot do.
"It's very important that Leon gains some confidence out on the floor, so we've kind of been letting him do whatever he wants out there," Shue said. "Soon there will be lots of direction, though."
Shue does not want to take away Wood's quicksilver, slashing drives to the basket. Even in his limited time with the 76ers, Wood got enormous respect for his shooting range. That has led to opposing guards playing him tightly, only to be surprised by a series of jukes and a burst of speed as Wood heads to the hoop.
This does not always result in a basket, for several reasons. According to Shue, Wood's teammates still have to get used to his penetration and position themselves where he can hit them for easy shots. Then again, before he can pass the ball, Wood has to establish the threat of scoring himself. On a number of occasions, he's penetrated, only to have his shot blocked. He believes that's merely a case of not concentrating, of actually being amazed he got that far in the first place.
"When you're coming off the bench and not sure how much you're gonna play," he said of his time in Philadelphia, "you didn't want to take that gamble of penetrating and maybe losing the ball, because if you did you were gonna come out.
"I would do it in practice, but I figured that was just guys like Maurice Cheeks being nice to a teammate. And when I did get into a game, I gave so much respect to the people who were playing against me. Now, though, I don't care. I think I can take the ball to the basket against anybody."
It was that same burgeoning confidence that led to the appearance of the headband.
"I'd had the blue one when I came into the league, but you don't do things like wear headbands in Philly," Wood said. "After I got here, though, and we won a few games, I just said, 'Why not?'
"But there was no way that I was gonna try it in my first few games here. I could just see it -- the coaches and management would look at me and say, 'This is the guy we wanted? I don't think so.' "