The Washington Bullets have made contact with John Williams, missing since the opening of training camp Oct. 5, and club vice president Jerry Sachs said yesterday that there is reason for "a minimal amount of optimism" the veteran forward soon will rejoin the team.
"The sounds are more positive than we've heard in the past," Sachs said after conferring Tuesday with Williams' agent, Fred Slaughter of Los Angeles. "We don't have a specific time frame, but we feel he might be prepared to come east."
Slaughter was less optimistic, saying there is still "a stumblin block" keeping Bullets management and Williams "at opposite sides of the room."
Slaughter did not spell out the specific problem. He indicated, however, the impasse was not a result of the more than $200,000 in wages that the club has withheld from Williams since July for failing to maintain his therapy program after knee surgery last December that sidelined him the remainder of the season.
Bullets officials could not be reached last night to explain th remaining issue of disagreement.
"Last Friday, we were using the information we received from th Bullets in an effort to get John into camp," Slaughter said.
"In fact, he has always been prepared to report. But there are five points that [Bullets owner] Abe Pollin and Jerry Sachs have discussed with John. He is agreeable to 80 percent of the terms. It's the last one that is still keeping them apart."
Slaughter said he has in no way influenced Williams to remain in
Los Angeles, where he was contacted by Bullets officials last weekend and again on Tuesday.
"John's absence is not a ploy on my part, as has bee suggested," Slaughter said. "I'm not making him do anything, but people are acting as if I committed felonious assault.
"I actually thought John left for Washington two weeks ago. I lost contact with him myself. And, until last Friday, I can honestly say I have not been engaged in negotiations between John and the team to resolve this situation.
"I wish it was over. I don't know who is right or wrong. What ha happened is a shame for both sides. I'm unhappy for John and the legitimate interests of the Bullets to have gotten into this situation."
Sachs and Slaughter suggested that part of the problem is result of Williams, 24, having trouble dealing with his injury.
A heralded prep star in Los Angeles and a college sensation ihis two years at Louisiana State before opting for the National Basketball Association, he never had suffered a major injury before last year.
"I think John is kind of confused right now," Sachs said "Mentally, he hasn't been able to deal with this kind of an injury.
"Our major concerns have always been to help rehabilitate hi knee, to help him lose weight and to help deal with this emotionally. We want to help him get back to where he used to be. We need his talent as a player, and we're reaching out to help him."
While the Williams impasse continues, coach Wes Unseld ha delayed cutting his roster of 17 players, including six free agents and guard Mike Morrison, obtained in a conditional trade with the Phoenix Suns. Morrison and fellow guards Haywoode Workman, Tony Harris and Larry Robinson saw considerable action in two preseason losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls.
"I still need more time to evaluate them, and I'm not planning an cuts until after our trip to Newfoundland this weekend," said Unseld, still without holdout guard Ledell Eackles.
All of the Bullets newcomers struggled in the exhibitions excep center-forward Greg Foster, who grabbed 10 rebounds against the Clippers and scored 10 points against the Bulls.