David Butler's self-described "vacation" is over. Now it's time to get a job.
Butler, it will be recalled, is the former Nevada-Las Vegas center with the primal scream rebounding technique. A couple of months ago, he was on the Runnin' Rebels team that destroyed Duke and gave UNLV its first national championship.
It also may be remembered that Butler, a District native who attended Coolidge High, was so concerned about his hometown's drug and murder problem that he wasn't sure if he ever wanted to come back from the relatively safe desert.
But he is here, along with others seeking the rarefied air of NBA employment at the Washington Bullets' rookie camp at Bowie State University. He has made peace with whatever worries he had before, enough to sweat out two-a-day workouts for a shot at training camp in October.
"I'm really here to learn," Butler said. "I'm a young guy and I'm going to get better as it goes on. I came here to learn and try to get a job also. If it comes down to I get waived, or whatever, I'm here to get in shape and go on to some more camps."
Butler is thinking of Philadelphia and Orlando, after a quick stop in Los Angeles for the all-star summer league. He also has offers in Italy and Israel. It is the typical life of the undrafted, something Butler has come to accept, even if he still does not agree with his status.
Butler thought he played well enough in the pre-draft camp in Orlando to be taken. Plus, there was the matter of UNLV's march to the Final Four. But he didn't play in the final pre-draft camp, in Chicago, a practice usually frowned upon by NBA team executives.
During the draft, the 6-foot-10 forward saw others go before him; 54 others, to be precise. And none of them had won it all.
It led to a funk in which he allowed himself to get out of shape. Two days of full-court ball in steamy McKeldin Gymnasium are bringing the form back, but the disappointment remains. A lot of money went by the boards.
"Winning the national championship is something great," he said. "Winning the championship, I can't understand why I didn't get drafted. It bothered me for about two weeks. Then I said I can either roll over and just quit playing and feel sorry for myself or keep going and try to get a job somewhere. Right now I've been working hard, because I'm a Washingtonian and I'd get a lot of home support playing for the Washington Bullets.
"I talked to a lot of people and they were telling me not to feel sorry for myself, just to keep working because something good would come of it. Sooner or later I'd find a spot somewhere."
Butler's spot may be somewhere between small forward and power forward; though his athleticism has gotten him some rebounds in traffic (when he emits that wail), he has been out-muscled on occasion. His biggest plus has been running the floor in transition play.
"In college, you mostly can run and play free," he said. "Here it's mostly timing and spacing."
At Las Vegas, his presence in the middle solidified the Rebels. He missed the first six games of his senior season because of academic probation, but averaged nearly 16 points and 7.4 rebounds after his return.
So far, Bullets Coach Wes Unseld has refused to comment on specific players, saying only that the team is looking for help up front and that anyone who excels there will get his attention.
"They're all good players, good college players," Unseld said. "I'm not saying they won't be good pro players, but all of them were good college players. Some of them were great college players.
"You just make a call, whether it's accurate or inaccurate, about whether they have that uniqueness to play pro ball."
If he has that ability, Butler wants to be in Washington. "If the pro contract is there," he said, "I'll accept it."
Bullets Notes: The team trimmed the roster after morning practice yesterday. Waived were guards Michael Anderson, Brent Carter, Kevin Houston -- the long-range jumpshooter from Army -- and Jerry Johnson, as well as forwards Todd Mitchell, veteran Al Wood, Mark Plansky and Brian Parker. There are 22 players left in camp; a few more probably will be released before Thursday, when the survivors go to Detroit for a four-team rookie tournament. There is no word on whether Pervis Ellison will make the trip. . . .
General Manager John Nash said the club has made a proposal to Ledell Eackles' agent, Judge Eddie Sapir of New Orleans. Sapir is "digesting" it, Nash said. A couple of million dollars will be coming to each club in 14 days, when the salary cap goes up, and Nash thinks that Sapir will wait until then to hear from other teams. Eackles has been working out at Bowie State, as are Harvey Grant, Mel Turpin, Charles Jones and Mark Alarie. . . .
Second-round pick Greg Foster did not accept a one-year offer from the club and is mulling a European offer.