BOWIE -- A number of average players spend their NBA careers trying to fill a particular need, and trying not to fall between the cracks. They're not ideally suited for any one position because of size, speed, shooting ability or defensive deficiencies.
Such a player is Don MacLean, the Washington Bullets' second-year forward from UCLA who is attending minicamp this week. He's trying to coax coach Wes Unseld to give him more playing time this season after spending his rookie year as a seldom-used reserve.
Used mostly as a small forward, the 6-foot-8 California native exhibited an excellent shooting touch in limited playing time, averaging 6.6 points over 10.9 minutes.
"Sitting got real frustrating," said MacLean, who set UCLA's scoring record (2,608 points). "I felt I proved I could compete and score, and the way the team was going, losing most of the time, I thought I'd at least get more minutes near the end of the season.
"But Wes is interested in winning every game, and wants to keep his best guys on the floor. I've still got to earn that spot."
To do so, MacLean, acquired by Washington last October in the trade that sent John Williams to the Los Angeles Clippers, will have to convince Unseld he can play aggressive defense.
"We're going to try Don at power forward, but there he might have trouble holding off more physical players," Unseld said. "That's why his coming into camp early will help us decide where he fits in."
MacLean said: "I don't think it's a big deal. I believe I can play both forward positions in certain situations. Playing defense is the biggest adjustment from college to the pros. You really have to learn what the other players like to do with the ball."
MacLean has worked hard at his self-improvement program. As soon as last season ended in April, he returned to California to work on his game and lift weights, adding some 15 pounds to his frame.
"I definitely feel stronger," he said, "but it hasn't slowed me down at all."
With the trade of forward Harvey Grant to Portland for center Kevin Duckworth, MacLean will compete with Buck Johnson and Larry Stewart as frontcourt reserves for projected starters Pervis Ellison and Tom Gugliotta.
"Don was basically our fifth forward last year," general manager John Nash said. "He's shown us he has NBA scoring skills, and he rebounded better than we anticipated. If he improves his defense and shows he can also play power forward, it will really increase his value."
MacLean, with his quick release, has had little trouble scoring in this camp. "You've got to show these guys your game is on a higher level," he said, with a trace of arrogance.
NOTES: Nash said Ellison, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees in Salt Lake last month, has made a rapid recovery. "Pervis is already using a bike. He will start running this week, and we expect him to start playing some ball by the end of August.". . . . Unseld made his first camp cuts, releasing guards Brian Gilgeous of American University and Orlando Stewart of Central (Ohio) State.