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McIlvaine wedded to task at hand


BOWIE -- Two days into a marriage, newlyweds might be DTC found sitting on beach chairs on some luxury island, enjoying their new life with their new spouse.

But two days into Jim McIlvaine's marriage, the 7-foot-1 second-round pick was wearing a Washington Bullets practice jersey and running grueling sprints during two-a-day practices.

"It's tough, but you have to do what you have to do," McIlvaine said yesterday of his movement from the altar to the pivot. "My wife understands."

What Mrs. McIlvaine understands is that, as the 32nd pick, there are no guarantees for her husband. That's why the two will honeymoon in August, giving McIlvaine a chance over the next two weeks to impress the Bullets' coaching staff during the rookie/free-agent camp.

"I'm just trying to get an overall sense of what's going on here, what they're looking for," McIlvaine said following his first session. "It just feels good being here, getting used to some of my teammates and how the coaches coach."

The Bullets were hoping that first-round pick Juwan Howard would spend yesterday adapting to his new team as well, but the former Michigan star was a no-show and is not expected to attend camp or join the team during the Doral Arrowwood Summer League that starts on Thursday in New York.

"I thought he would be here Monday through Thursday, but David Falk [Howard's agent] said that Juwan was fearful that he might be injured," Bullets general manager John Nash said. "He wanted to come and observe, but didn't want to play in any games. That didn't serve any valuable purpose.

"We couldn't sign him to a contract even if we wanted to," Nash added, referring to the players association's challenge to the draft, salary cap and free agency -- a legal challenge that could be settled as soon as today. "I just wish he and Calbert Cheaney [last year's pick, out with an Achilles' injury] could have been here."

Thus a lot of attention will fall on McIlvaine, whose 399 career blocks at Marquette ranks fifth in NCAA Division I history. McIlvaine demonstrated an ability to run the court yesterday, and will look to show off his offensive skills (he averaged 10.8 points at Marquette) as camp continues.

"I need to work on everything," McIlvaine said. "I want to pick up weight, but it's one of those things where my metabolism has to catch up with the rest of me. No matter how much I eat, it just goes off me."

By the time preseason camp rolls around, the Bullets are hoping that McIlvaine can add 7 to 10 pounds to his 240-pound frame.

"I feel he can benefit from upper body strength and bulk," coach Jim Lynam said. "His position is of a very physical type play, and to be able to hold his position will be important."

Center is a crowded position with the Bullets, on the surface making McIlvaine's chances of making the team a long shot. But 7-7 reserve center Gheorghe Muresan, a second-round pick who made the roster last year, said he's split between returning to the Bullets or playing for a team in Barcelona next season.

"I don't know what I'll do yet, and I won't know possibly until the end of the summer," said Muresan, who is in camp. "I have two outstanding conditions -- in Barcelona I would play and that's what I like. Here, I'd be playing with very good players and can progress as a player. I'm not sure what I'll do."

The Bullets would like to hold on to Muresan, by far the most popular player on the team.

"Barcelona was interested in Gheorghe a year ago and we're aware of their interest," Nash said. "Although I firmly believe Gheorghe will play [with Washington], there's no way I can guarantee that. He's a free agent. It's up to Gheorghe."

For McIlvaine, it's not a time to worry about other players and their situations. He's just working on improving in camp -- even if it means leaving his new wife.

"What I do tomorrow is news to me -- I plan on doing everything the Bullets want me to," McIlvaine said. "Me and my wife have known each other a long time and, although nothing has ever happened of this scale, she understands. It just feels really good being here."

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