EMMITSBURG -- Money might be getting in the way of veteran guard Ledell Eackles and his future with the Washington Bullets. But money has little to do with Mike Morrison and his pursuit of an NBA career.
While Morrison and rookies A.J. English and Tony Harris say they hope Eackles comes to camp soon, none is denying his absence is an opportunity for them. Morrison, a second-year pro from Loyola College, goes a step further.
"I can't understand [Eackles]," said Morrison, who was acquired for a conditional draft pick from Phoenix just before training camp. "Money shouldn't be taken lightly, but it shouldn't be taken that seriously either. The game was created for fun and you shouldn't lose that perspective. When the fun stops, the money stops."
Eackles, who will be entering his third season and averaged 13.5 points last year, is asking for $8 million. He contends the Bullets are looking at him as a starter after the trade of the team's leading scorer, Jeff Malone, last summer and he should be paid accordingly. The Bullets have offered about $3 million, contending Eackles has not proven he can be an everyday starter.
Yesterday, Bullets general manager John Nash said there has been no progress in negotiations. Coach Wes Unseld said he is approaching this season as if Eackles will not be here.
"I'm hoping things will work out in the end," Unseld said. "But the only way I can operate is by going with what's here. When Ledell gets here, he'll have to work his way back in. And with him it will take a couple of months before he will have an impact, because he does not have strong offseason work habits."
Which means Eackles needs training camp, particularly if he is to take up the slack left by the trade of Malone. He showed signs that he could when he averaged 25.3 points in seven starts last season.
"I know you have to look after yourself business-wise," said Morrison. "But the rewards will come. There is money in this league and there are not too many players who deserve it and haven't gotten it."
The Bullets have seven veterans in camp who are expected to make the club, leaving five spots on the roster. Two of those could be affected by Eackles and forward John Williams, who also hasn't reported.
Harris has been impressive and Nash said English has played "reasonably well." He also said Morrison has "shown flashes," but the 6-foot-4 guard realizes his shooting is in question.
"Right now, I have a stigma," said Morrison. "I think a lot of people around here think I can't shoot. It has been very up and down this week, but this camp has had a lot of emphasis on conditioning and I'm just starting to get my legs back. I think if they're patient they'll get what they're looking for."
Guards Lenzie Howell (Arkansas) and Charles McGill (Albany State) were released yesterday, reducing the roster to 19.