MacLean: passed up, passed around Rookie seeking home with Bullets

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

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. -- Don MacLean has yet to play TC professional basketball game, but he already is something of an NBA journeyman.

The all-time UCLA scoring leader, who last season eclipsed the school mark of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, lists three teams on his resume -- the Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Bullets, who hope to sign the 6-foot-10 forward this week.

MacLean, the 19th draft choice overall this June after being projected as a possible lottery pick, is viewed by the Bullets as the principal part of Thursday's trade that also landed center William Bedford in exchange for veteran forward John Williams.

After a grueling day of coast-to-coast flying and an hour car ride through the West Virginia hills, a fatigued MacLean met last night with Bullets general manager John Nash and coach Wes Unseld.

The California native had heard rumors last week that the Clippers, who obtained him and Bedford from the Pistons on draft day last June in a swap for center Olden Polynice, were looking to move him after failing to reach a contract agreement with his agent, Arn Tellum.

"I think the Clippers realized they didn't have that great a need for another young forward with Danny Manning, Ken Norman and Loy Vaught already on their roster," MacLean said. "They made the playoffs last year, and they probably want to make a real run at it this season. They were looking to sign [former New York Knick] Kiki Vandeweghe at a bargain price."

MacLean favorably viewed his trade to Washington.

"With all the changes the Bullets are going through, I just feel things could work out better for me here," he said.

Nash long has been a MacLean booster and said the big forward with the excellent shooting touch would have been a lottery choice if he had opted to skip his senior season.

"Last year, given the chance, I would have picked him over Stacey Augmon, Mark Macon and Greg Anthony," said Nash, who swapped the Bullets' pick at No. 8 last year to the Denver Nuggets for point guard Michael Adams.

"A lot of NBA people simply regard Don as a fine standstill shooter, but you can't score over 2,000 points just shooting jumpers. I see a guy with a large variety of offensive weapons. Our main concern with Don is if he has the ability defensively to play smaller forwards."

MacLean said he finds his fall from grace just as puzzling as Nash does.

"People scouted me for four years in college, and I was always very consistent, averaging close to 20 points a game [20.5 for his career]. Not 40 in one and eight in another," he said.

"But when you start going for auditions at all these NBA cities like I did in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Houston, they suddenly start viewing you in a different light.

"Now, it seems, they're more interested in finding some natural athlete with a great vertical leap. Or a guy who averaged eight points in college and has a few impressive games at the NBA camps in Orlando and Chicago suddenly becomes a hot property. I know a lot of people placed a lot of stock in my poor game against Indiana in the NCAA Western finals, but what I did in four years and over 130 games should count for something."

MacLean said he never seriously thought of leaving UCLA after his brilliant junior season, when he averaged 23.0 points.

"Personally, I didn't think I was ready mentally or physically to turn pro," he said. "But the chance to beat Abdul-Jabbar's record was something special," he said. "I'm sure one day someone will beat mine, but it's not the same as beating Abdul-Jabbar's."

With Bullets lottery pick Tom Gugliotta still unsigned, Nash said he hopes to get MacLean into camp by tomorrow's practice at Shepherd College.

"You don't find many big guys with MacLean's offensive talent," said Nash. "But whether he becomes a top-notch NBA player remains to be seen. Right now, he's a top-notch prospect."

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