With Williams, Eackles AWOL, Bullets focus on Ellison in camp

October 06, 1990|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

EMMITSBURG -- With two of his potential starters missing from the opening of training camp yesterday, Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld had the opportunity to test his "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy.

"I don't know if it's a good or bad character trait, but I never worry about things I can't control," said Unseld, who held his first practice without forward John Williams, who is missing, and guard Ledell Eackles, who is holding out.

Williams, who missed most of last season after knee surgery, did not report for his pre-camp physical. He reportedly left California for Washington on Wednesday, but has not contacted the Bullets in the past two days. His Los Angeles-based agent, Fred Slaughter, was unavailable for comment.

"It's possible now that John Williams may not be checked by our medical staff until Monday," said Bullets general manager John Nash, who has withheld Williams' pay since July for failing to follow a rehabilitation program.

There was more positive news on Eackles. After a two-month standoff, Eackles' agent, Ed Sapir of New Orleans, called Nash on Thursday and said, "Let's talk."

Sapir originally asked for a four-year package worth $8 million. Nash countered with a $2.8 million proposal. Yesterday, Sapir appeared ready to negotiate.

"Maybe it has just been a breakdown in philosophy, but we both have a common goal -- getting Ledell into camp," said Sapir. "I just want to create a more comfortable atmosphere for negotiating. I've already relaxed our stand on deferred payments and [a] signing bonus."

When Nash proposed a one-year contract for Eackles, Sapir said negotiations would have to begin at more than $1 million.

"That's the average salary in the National Basketball Association this year, and it's only going to go up next year," Sapir said. "And I think that everyone has to agree with the premise that Eackles is more than an average player."

Nash said that Sapir had confused the average salary with the mean salary and that no significant progress was made in their phone conversation yesterday.

"Hopefully, we'll talk again early next week," Nash said.

In the absence of Williams and Eackles, the focus turned to newly acquired forward-center Pervis Ellison, who was obtained from the Sacramento Kings in the three-team swap that sent Bullets scoring leader Jeff Malone to the Utah Jazz.

While the Bullets worried this summer about Williams' added girth, they applauded the 6-foot-10 Ellison's weight gain. Ellison worked all summer under the supervision of Bullets strength coach Dennis Householder and reported to camp at 230.

"In this league, you've got to hold your own in the paint, and the added weight will help," Ellison said. "But I still rely mostly on my quickness to beat guys to the ball."

Ellison, the first player chosen in the 1989 NBA draft, played only 34 games for the Kings in an injury-marred rookie season. He averaged 8.0 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Ellison said he was a victim of circumstances after the Kings fired coach Jerry Reynolds 28 games into the season and replaced him with Dick Motta.

"Motta has always been a forward-oriented coach. He built the Kings offense around Wayman Tisdale and Antoine Carr," he said. "When he came in, he was already focusing on next year, and I obviously wasn't in his plans.

"As his center, I was mostly a rebounder and defender. I believe in Coach Unseld's system. I'll have a chance to be a more complete player, helping out in a lot of areas."

NOTES: Forward Bernard King, 33, became the team's distance-running champion again, nosing out free-agent forward Ron Draper in the 1 1/2 -mile run. For the second straight year, forward Tom Hammonds failed to finish. Another early dropout was draft choice Greg Foster, who quit after 440 yards. Ellison was excused from the race because of a strep throat. Michel Bonebo, a 7-foot-3 free agent, pulled a hamstring and missed practice.

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