BOWIE -- Since leaving Memphis State in 1986 to make his way in pro basketball, point guard Andre Turner has played for seven NBA teams.
Because he's never stayed in one place long enough to call it home, it was surprising that Turner passed up a guaranteed contract to play with the Philadelphia 76ers this season.
Instead, tonight when the 76ers visit the Capital Centre, Turner will be wearing a Washington Bullets uniform, trying to get enough playing time to convince coach Wes Unseld that he is worth keeping when top draft pick LaBradford Smith clears the injured list in the next few weeks.
"I really can't explain what happened," said Turner, a slight 5-foot-11 playmaker who was signed by the Bullets on the eve of the season opener to serve as a back-up for Michael Adams. "My agent [Ron Grinker] was trying to get me with the team suited for my abilities.
"Sure, I'd rather have a guarantee, and I've played it over in my mind 1,000 times. But I can't worry about it now. I've never had a guarantee before, and I've managed to play somewhere in the NBA every year for at least part of the season. That tells me I have some marketable talent."
But Turner sat at home all summer waiting for the phone to ring. As it developed, only the Bullets expressed a real interest, with general manager John Nash first having to sell the coaching staff on Turner's merits.
Grinker blames it all on "miscommunication" with 76ers owner Harold Katz, who contends the agent rejected a two-year guaranteed contract worth an estimated $500,000. "I told Katz that I would take a polygraph test to prove a two-year deal was never offered," Grinker said from his Cincinnati law office yesterday.
"What happened was that back in August [76ers general manager] Gene Shue asked me if I would accept a two-year deal, if offered.
"I asked Gene if he had the authority to make such an offer since I knew Katz had the veto power. Gene acknowledged he didn't. It was one of those 'good cop, bad cop' scenarios. Looking back, I wouldn't have done anything differently."
Whenever Turner has been given more than a glancing look, he has proved an effective, quick reserve guard with the ability to generate a running game and hit the open shot.
His first five NBA trials took him to Boston, Houston, Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte, but never lasted more than 12 games while bouncing back and forth to the CBA.
Opponent: Philadelphia 76ers
Site: Capital Centre, Landover, 7:30
Radio: WTOP (1500 AM)
Tickets: About 5,000 remain
Outlook: The Bullets and 76ers started the season in opposite directions. Michael Adams totaled 63 points, 24 assists and 13 steals in Washington's victories over Indiana and Boston. F Harvey Grant is averaging 22.5 points and C Pervis Ellison has grabbed 28 rebounds in 2 games. The 76ers are without reserve C Charles Shackleford (ankle), C Manute Bol (lacerated hand) and reserve G Mitchell Wiggins (hamstring). Poor defense and turnovers underlined weekend losses to Chicago and Orlando. Charles Barkley has shifted from small to power forward.