EMMITSBURG -- Albert King sat on the Memorial Gym floor, diligently going through his 20-minute stretching routine, a regimen he has followed since high school. The first day of the Washington Bullets' preseason camp, he was by himself. Yesterday, he had a little company. Today, it will be more.
"As this camp gets harder, more and more guys will be out here with me," says the former University of Maryland and New Jersey Nets star, with a laugh. "Each day when you wake up the pain is worse. It's like someone beat you up. Me, I like the feeling. I've missed the NBA soreness. I'm not complaining."
Albert King was the No. 1 draft choice of the Nets in 1981, and he played six seasons there, winding up as their fourth all-time leading scorer, before making stops in Philadelphia (1987-88) and San Antonio (1988-89).
He has spent the last two years outside the NBA, the last one with Albany in the Continental Basketball Association. Now, he wants back in the NBA. If he can do that with the Bullets, it will be twice as special. Not only will he have proved he can still play with the best, but he will be on the same team with his brother, Bernard.
"We've played each other a lot in the offseasons," Albert says. "But we've never played on the same court, on the same team, during a season. That would be special. But that's not what's motivating me."
Nor is the motivator money. If money was the only object, he'd simply get on a jet and fly back to Europe, where money is guaranteed. He spent the 1989-90 season in Israel, but played in the CBA last year because he believed it would be a steppingstone back to the NBA.
"Nothing compares with playing in the NBA," King says. "The big thing that's driving me now is that I know I belong in the NBA and I want to show it. If it happens I can accomplish that and be on the same team with Bernard, all the better. But that's down the road. He's already proved he deserves to be here. I'm just trying to work toward that point."
To prepare for this camp, Albert heeded Bernard's advice and worked harder on his conditioning. Instead of simply playing in summer leagues, he got on Bernard's treadmill and ran.
"It has built my endurance and made being out here fun," says Albert, 31. "I'm not suffering too much yet, but I know when the veterans get here and two-a-days begin [today], it will get worse. But even if we had to go three times a day, I'd do it and gladly. Whatever it takes to get back I'll do."
Although coach Wes Unseld won't say anything specific about Albert, Bullets general manager John Nash says the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder is valuable in camp because he provides veteran leadership to a young, inexperienced group and gives the coaches a measuring stick.
"Albert is a wonderful example, a carbon copy of Bernard, in professionalism and work ethic," said Nash. "The fact he was willing to play in the CBA shows his determination. And we can see he has been working. He was with me in Philadelphia for a year, and I can see that he is in better condition and that he is running better than he did three years ago."
Nash said he told Albert that if after getting a look at him, the coaches felt he did not have a chance at the roster, "we'd tell him, so he wouldn't waste his time or ours. But he's still here and is in better physical condition than anyone else out there."
King said he decided to come to the Bullets camp because there is a spot open, a rarity in the NBA this season. The reason the Bullets have a spot, is that Bernard King, 34, and Mark Alarie are recovering from knee surgeries and No. 1 draft choice LaBradford Smith is out with a severely sprained ankle.
"Some people look at it as if I'm competing for Bernard's spot, and I know that sounds intriguing and exciting because we're brothers, but that's not the way I'm looking at it,"
Albert says. "I'm looking at it more as Mark Alarie's out and that's where I might fit in. Bernard's my brother and I'm very aware of what he can do. There aren't that many in the world who can compete for Bernard's spot."