2nd-year Bullets jump at head start


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Don MacLean had no problem scoring at UCLA, where he was the all-time leading scorer in school and Pacific-10 history. But you can't score from the bench, where MacLean found himself quite a bit last season with the Washington Bullets.

"It was tough for me mentally and physically," said MacLean, who averaged a little more than 10 minutes. "It was hard making myself get on the StairMaster and the bike to stay in shape because I wasn't playing."

In search of those added minutes, MacLean and two other second-year players reported to training camp early this season. When the rookies and free agents began practice Tuesday, so did MacLean, Brent Price and Doug Overton, who got a jump on veterans who will begin two-a-day practices this morning.

The three could have enjoyed their last couple of days off before the start of the grueling season. But they made the sacrifice -- and coach Wes Unseld likes the fact that they're here.

"I think they're smart," said Unseld. "If I can get an edge on the guy I'm competing with, I want that edge. Darrell Walker started it, and Harvey Grant always came in early."

In the case of the Bullets' camp, spending a few extra days here is a sacrifice. Shepherdstown isn't exactly a bustling metropolitan area, and aside from outlet mall shopping, there isn't much to do in the way of entertainment.

And training camp is a physical affair, as the ice packs on the players yesterday showed.

"When I signed, Mark [Price, his brother] said he had heard that this is one of the toughest training camps," Price said. "Last year when I went through it I had the pressure of trying to make the team. The pressure's off me this year, as far as I'm concerned. I just want to come out and concentrate on playing good basketball."

And he, too, is looking to increase his playing time. The former Oklahoma standout, who scored 56 points once in college, knows that only can come with extra effort.

"Since my position's a guard position I'm fighting for minutes," said Price, who averaged a little more than 12 minutes in 68 games. "Since I didn't get a whole lot of minutes last year, I just wanted to get in early and get a head start. I wanted to come in early and show I'm serious about wanting to turn this team around."

Overton, who made the team as a free agent last year after being cut by the Detroit Pistons the previous season, said getting into playing shape was his main goal in reporting early. He'll be competing with Price for more backcourt minutes.

"You can come here and get kind of a head start on conditioning drills, which is really to your advantage," said Overton, who averaged 8.1 points last season and spent 31 games on the injured list. "It doesn't hurt to come out early. I think I've benefited."

MacLean, who was a first-round pick by the Pistons in 1992 before several trades landed him with the Bullets, is hoping to regain that feeling he had at UCLA. After missing camp last season, he wanted to begin early this year.

"I don't think it hurts," MacLean said. "If you're in a position like me where you don't get a lot of minutes, you'll do anything you can.

"I got a lot stronger, that was my main focus," MacLean added. "I got better athletically and I think I got a little faster. I know I can score in this league, I think I showed that last year. It's just a matter of being able to be as strong as some of these guys."

NOTES: F Pervis Ellison checked into the Bullets camp last night -- and will check right back out today. Apparently Ellison's recovery from knee surgery has not gone well enough to allow him to stay with the team in the next week of camp. "We probably won't expect him during training camp. We expect him back toward the beginning of the season," Unseld said. "It's very cut and dried what he's supposed to do. He'll work with the sports medicine people in Washington because we don't have the equipment here to properly treat him. We're shooting for the opener." . . . F Calbert Cheaney, the first-round draft pick who missed practice Wednesday with a sore back, returned yesterday. "It's fine," Cheaney said after the two-hour session.

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