Team captain Darrell Walker counts eight guard candidates for the Washington Bullets next season, and figures he may be odd man out.
But Walker, disgruntled over the team's seeming unwillingness to extend his contract with a sizable raise, was quoted in yesterday's Washington Post as saying he would welcome a trade.
Reached yesterday at his agent's office in Little Rock, Ark., his off-season home, Walker said, "I want to make it clear I love playing for [coach] Wes Unseld and like the guys on the team. My only gripe is with [general manager] John Nash, who doesn't seem to like me. Unless something is done soon, I'm not going to be a happy camper come October."
This is not a new grievance for Walker, who began voicing displeasure last season with his current contract of $615,000 a year, which expires in 1993. Financially, that places him seventh among team veterans.
"I've made it clear all along that I'm not asking them to tear up my contract," said the eight-year veteran. "But that happens all the time. Three other guards -- Alvin Robertson and Jay Humphries [of the Milwaukee Bucks] and Vern Fleming [of Indiana] recently had their contracts redone. And I feel I'm in a class with Humphries and Fleming.
"Still, I'd be more than satisfied with an extension. That's been my position since Day 1. I could understand their attitude if I was a dog and didn't put out every night. But for four years, I've played hard for this team and been a model citizen. What more do they want?"
Walker, 30, said team owner Abe Pollin promised him last January that "he would work something out with my contract. But no one ever got back to me."
Walker said he has no intention of talking to Nash, and Nash, in turn, plans no meeting with Walker.
"I think it would be inappropriate now to discuss Walker's contract," Nash said. "There are many other factors we must first consider.
"First, we want to see how our backcourt shapes up with the acquisition of Michael Adams and [draft choice] LaBradford Smith. Then we want to determine in camp whether A.J. English and Smith are capable of playing both guard positions. That might allow us to keep only four guards.
"But the other major consideration is that we have already reached our salary cap. And that doesn't even take signing Smith into account."
The Bullets' reluctance to extend Walker's contract are tied to his age and his projected role as a reserve guard. Management views Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard who led the team in rebounding two years ago, as having had his best years as a pro.
Last season, his scoring average dipped from 9.5 to 7.8 points a game as the frontcourt of Bernard King, Harvey Grant and Pervis Ellison dominated the offense.