SEATTLE -- Balance, more than anything, is what Quinti Dailey finds when he steps on a scale these days.
Rejoining the Seattle SuperSonics this week after a mysterious disappearance last spring, he weighed in at a near-svelte 210 pounds.
Yet a scale alone cannot measure the excess baggage Dailey has lost in recent weeks.
While being treated for a neurological disorder at a Calabasas, Calif., hospital the past month, Dailey uncovered "a bag of anger so heavy I couldn't even pull it."
No wonder. He'd been saving it up for years.
At Woodview-Calabasas Hospital, he was diagnosed with a form of hyperactivity called adult residual attention deficit disorder, which could be the cause of his deviant behavior over the years.
Hyperactivity, in children, is marked by overactivity. When it continues into adolescence and adulthood, it can manifest itself in sluggishness, depression, moodiness and anti-social, even criminal, behavior.
In essence, that describes Dailey's longtime behavior pattern, much of which has been related to basketball. The sport has supplied his identity, both good and bad, even since his high school days at Cardinal Gibbons in Baltimore. Now, for the umpteenth time in his nine-year NBA career, Dailey claims it is Dr. Jekyll, and not Mr. Hyde, who has resurfaced.
"I'm still the same Quintin," he said after practicing with the Sonics for the first time in nearly six months, "but I'm not the evil, mood-changing Quintin any more."
In the best of times, Dailey was a scorer with few peers, especially in the post, where 6-foot-2 guards are not expected to venture.
In the worst of times, Dailey was a tortured soul with even fewer peers.
"Everybody has their problems," he said. "I just happen to be in a sport where all the problems are magnified."
In Dailey's case, they didn't need much magnification.
While a senior at San Francisco, he assaulted a nursing student and was sentenced to three years probation. Twice while with the Chicago Bulls, he ran afoul of the NBA's drug-abuse guidelines. He warred openly with Kevin Loughery, then the Bulls' coach, and once removed himself from a game and ate a tub of popcorn on the bench.
His next team, the Los Angeles Clippers, suspended him for a week for being overweight. A Lakers tryout ended after he missed a team flight, fainted during one practice and missed the bus to another.
What Dailey long has known about himself is his tendency to withdraw when things didn't go as planned. He was orphaned at age 13, when his father died of lung cancer and, a month later, his mother died of a stroke. Probably then, he discovered that special haven within himself, one that he often shared only with his demons.
One of them was cocaine. For loners such as Dailey, it is an especially desirable friend. As Dailey once said, "Drugs never talk back."
Yet drug tests show Dailey has been sober since Feb. 5, 1986, the day he entered the ASAP Clinic, an NBA-approved treatment center in Los Angeles.
Last year, Dailey began playing for a new coach, K.C. Jones, whom he was eager to impress. But after the Sonics reshuffled their deck at midseason, Dailey found himself the sixth guard in a six-guard rotation.
Dailey also had turned 30 and suddenly was staring at his basketball mortality.
"All of a sudden, I'm wondering, 'Damn, what am I?' " Dailey said. "You go out in public, and people say, 'Who are you?' At least you used to be a name."
Dailey responded as he always had. He withdrew. His weight ballooned and his attention span waned.
When the Sonics met Portland in the first round of the playoffs, nTC Dailey wasn't even on the active roster.
"What we went through last year, under those circumstances, no, I didn't want him back," Jones said. "It was anger, for the most part. That's what I got out of last year."
Luckily for him, so did Dailey. He checked into the hospital in Calabasas for tests.
Stimulants are often used to treat the disorder. But Dailey is taking an anti-depressant, which has lower abuse potential. He also is undergoing anger-management therapy.
Dailey understands that many believe he simply went crazy, but he doesn't particularly care to set the record straight.
"I need to intimidate a little bit, make people scared a little bit," he said, referring to his on-court interactions. "It's like, 'You don't know when I'm going to go off now.' I have to keep the edge."
But Dailey's latest quest isn't about restoring a basketball career gone astray. Nor is it about restoring the image of a public person who became a little too public. It's about his private haven, which now has room for his wife, Angela; their daughter Quinci, 4; and their son Quintin Anthony, 1 1/2 . By the time his children grow up, Dailey doesn't want any traces left of their "nutty father."
Dailey, who is expected to be reactivated in two to three weeks, has one year left on his Sonics contract, guaranteed for $425,000. Beyond that, his future is uncertain. Beyond basketball, he is taking courses to become a drug counselor. He also is intrigued with becoming an NBA official. Having exploited all of them, he says he knows the shortcuts a player can take on the court.
The same holds true for life. Dailey now knows the whys of his own. And he's probably better positioned than ever to deal with it.