Massenburg's number comes up Bullets Ex-Terp makes bid for free-agent spot

July 12, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

BOWIE -- Serious investors spend their time reading the Wall Street Journal. Tony Massenburg, with an eye on his basketball future, spent last spring studying "The Sporting News NBA Guide."

That is why the former Maryland forward was among the 11 free agents bidding for jobs at the Washington Bullets' three-day mini-camp that opened at Bowie State yesterday.

"It's all a numbers game," said Massenburg, a second-round draft choice of the San Antonio Spurs in 1990 who has since made pit stops in Charlotte, Boston and Golden State.

"You've got to scan all the team rosters and decide where you have the best odds of making the club. Right now, I think the Bullets, with all their question marks about Bernard King, John Williams and Mark Alarie, are my best bet. They definitely need some inside muscle and rebounding help."

During a break in yesterday's scrimmage, Bullets general manager John Nash shook hands and shouted at the former Terps star, "Tony, we finally got you here after three tries."

Massenburg laughed and waved in response.

"Yeah, it was mostly bad timing," said the Virginia native who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds in his senior season at Maryland.

"It seemed every time there was an opening on the Bullets last season because of an injury, I had just signed to play somewhere else. But Washington always expressed an interest in me, and now I've just got to make the most of my chance."

Massenburg said he has had little chance in the past to prove hisworth. He seldom left the Spurs bench as a rookie. After being released by San Antonio last December, his chances were limited to 10-day trials in Charlotte, Boston and Golden State, plus a three-week stint in Italy.

"In San Antonio, we had a lot of veteran forwards -- Terry Cummings, Antoine Carr and Sidney Green," he recalled.

"[Former Spurs coach] Larry Brown has a lot more faith in veterans than rookies. I just never got the minutes to show anything."

Massenburg labeled his brief stay in Charlotte "a total waste, just a body filling out the roster."

His tours with Golden State and Boston were productive only in getting offered a second look this summer, invitations he has put on hold.

"It's been very frustrating," he said, "but I've never gotten to the point where I was ready to give up my basketball career."

Massenburg had many chances to walk away from the game during his five tumultuous years at Maryland. He missed the start of his freshman season due to academic problems and sat out what would have been his sophomore year after being accused of cheating on an exam, a charge he still disputes.

There was also the tragic death of his close friend and teammate Len Bias from a drug overdose in 1986, the dismissal of coach Lefty Driesell, who recruited him to Maryland, and then having to adjust to the different coaching styles of Bob Wade and Gary Williams his final two years.

"I don't have a single regret about my situation at College Park," said Massenburg, who made the academic honor roll his senior year. "I set my sights on going to Maryland. There was so much stuff going on, naturally you had to think about leaving. But it was strictly my decision to stay the five years.

"Going through all the hard times made me grow up in a hurry, I think I became a better person."

Massenburg has kept that positive attitude as a basketball gypsy. The times and places beginning to blur in his memory.

"I'm constantly working on improving my shooting, passing and ball-handling," he said. "If you work hard, and God's on your side, your chance will come."

NOTES: As expected, neither of the Bullets' draft picks -- F Tom Gugliotta of N.C. State and G Brent Price of Oklahoma -- attended the camp. Price's absence gave Kentucky playmaker Sean Woods a chance to impress the coaches with his speed and athleticism. The only other "no-show" was free-agent F Ian Lockhart of Tennessee, who was cut by Phoenix two years ago and spent last winter playing in France.

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