LANDOVER -- To demonstrate the height of second-round draft pick Gheorghe Muresan, the Washington Bullets stretched a 7-foot-7 submarine sandwich across a table -- with a tape measure alongside to verify the length. On a side wall stood a growth chart, comparing Muresan to former Bullets Manute Bol (7-6), Muggsy Bogues (5-3) and team president Susan O'Malley (5 feet).
Unfortunately, neither of the two props did Muresan's size any justice.
What you had to see was just how much the 315-pound center had to duck as he entered a door, just how small a basketball appeared in his oversized hands and just how much he towered over 6-8 coach and former NBA center Wes Unseld.
After flying into Washington from his native Romania on Wednesday, Muresan was at the USAir Arena to meet the media yesterday. One of the top players in Europe last year, Muresan has signed a $150,000 non-guaranteed contract and will report to camp with the team's rookies and free agents on Oct. 5.
Just how far he's around after that remains to be seen.
"I'm at a loss to comment on him because I don't know the guy," said Unseld. "He's got size. You can't coach size, and you can't teach it. That's always a factor."
Soon the Bullets will be able to determine if Muresan is ready for the NBA. While playing for Pau Orthez in France last season, Muresan averaged 17.4 points and nine rebounds.
"We've seen him on tape and we know that there were three NBA teams that considered drafting him in the first round," said Bullets general manager John Nash. "We know some NBA teams would love to have him. Fortunately, we have him."
The odds of Muresan staying around are long. The 22-year-old, who turned down a $500,000 contract to play in Greece, will be attempting to make a team that already has 12 guaranteed contracts. Plus his lack of speed is viewed as a serious deficiency in the fast-paced NBA game.
But then you always are forced to come back to his massive size.
"I want to play right away," said Muresan, in a rough translation offered by his agent, Bill Sweek, of ProServ. "If it takes one month, I'll wait a month. If it takes five months, I'll wait. [I] really want to play soon."
Because Muresan underwent surgery in June to correct a pituitary disorder, his health also is a concern.Nash said he was pleased with the results of an exam yesterday.
"It appears Gheorghe has no major injuries," Nash said. "We're hoping [today] to have him work out on the basketball court. On Monday we'll examine him and find out if the surgery is as successful as we've been led to believe."
In the meantime Muresan, whose favorite players are Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan, will get adapted to his new environment. Yesterday, he was introduced to a Stairmaster, was impressed with the weight training room at his hotel, and was amazed at the variety of cars Americans drive.
While he is unable to speak English, Muresan is hoping to pick it up as easily as he did French last year.
Sweek said: "He's already learned some of the swear words from some of his American teammates last year."
Asked why he turned a $500,000 guaranteed contract, Muresan said, "I feel there's more room for improvement in the United States. The coaching will be superior here. If I stay in Europe the margin of progress is limited."
Muresan will wear No. 77 -- one number higher than the 76 that Philadelphia 76ers 7-6 center Shawn Bradley will wear.
NOTES: Nash said Pervis Ellison appears to be progressing well after having arthroscopic surgery on both knees. "He won't scrimmage for a couple of weeks, but we anticipate he'll be in camp," Nash said. . . . Six free agents have accepted invitations to attend the Bullets camp, including former Knicks F Kenny Walker and rookie Mitchell Butler (UCLA).