LAS VEGAS -- John Williams has accused Washington Bullets general manager John Nash of trying to make an example of him and said he is prepared to sit out the season unless the Bullets rescind Williams' fines of more than $270,000 or decide to trade him.
For the first time in a half-year, Williams spoke about his differences with the Bullets, and he sounded bitter when discussing the problems that have kept him from reporting to the team.
Williams, surrounded by family members and friends from California, sat at a bar in The Mirage lobby late Thursday night, watching the crowd of fashionable women and high rollers file out of the arena after witnessing Evander Holyfield's third-round knockout of heavyweight champion Buster Douglas.
"I'll be 24 after midnight," said the Bullets forward. "I'm supposed to be celebrating my birthday, but, I tell you, this has been the worst year of my life."
"I'm 24 now, and I'm supposed to be my own man," he said. "This is my decision and my life, not my agent's [Fred Slaughter]. The Bullets also have to start treating me like a man."
The Bullets repeatedly have said that they are prepared to refund all of Williams' money after he is examined by team doctors in Washington to determine his fitness to begin playing and he renews his therapy work in earnest.
"I've heard talk about a possible trade to Atlanta or Denver," he said, "but I want to play for the Bullets, because I respect [coach] Wes Unseld and I know they really need me this year.
"If it were up to Wes or [Bullets vice president] Jerry Sachs, I think I'd already be in training camp, getting my weight down and playing myself back into shape. I talked to Sachs a couple of weeks ago, and he told me he'd see what he could do about the fines, but he called me back and said he couldn't do anything. I think the new guy [general manager Nash] wants to make an example of me."
Williams, the Bullets' most versatile player and projected as a future star in the National Basketball Association, underwent surgery in December after injuring his knee and missed the remainder of the season.
The Bullets began to fine him after he stopped the prescribed rehabilitation program at the Kerlan-Jobe clinic in his hometown of Los Angeles.
The forward, 6 feet 9, admitted to weighing 280 pounds, 20 more than the playing weight the Bullets felt was best for him to report to work.
"Look, I'll be the first to admit that I'm overweight," he said. "Putting me in that leg cast for two months didn't help.
"But I've always had a weight problem coming into camp, and the way Wes pushes off, I'd have been in shape in time for the start of the season.
"My main concern, and probably theirs, too, was my knee. It's more than 80 percent sound now. That's the doctors talking, not me.
"I've tested it running laterally, stopping and pivoting and jumping, and I haven't felt any pain. I've been running up and down hills and playing some pickup games. The knee doesn't worry me anymore."
Asked why he had forsaken therapy treatments, Williams said: "There was a lot on my mind this past summer. First, I saw one of my best friends drown right before my eyes at the beach. Then my father had a stroke and had to go to a convalescent home.
"When all that was going on, I stopped going to the clinic. I started up again in August after talking to Wes out in Los Angeles, but when the fines kept coming, I stopped again."
Team captain Darrell Walker tried to end the stalemate by visiting with Williams in California before training camp opened, Williams said, but Walker was unable to persuade Williams to return to Washington with him.
"Darrell meant well, but this has got to be my own decision," he said.
"I'm concerned about the team, but I'm not the only problem. I don't think they're serious about getting better.
"They still haven't signed [veteran guard] Ledell Eackles, and I'd have never traded Jeff Malone for Pervis Ellison. Sure, that's swapping a guard for a big man, but Malone was our best scorer the past three years, and Pervis is still unproven as a pro."
Williams also said he has been offended by the negative coverage surrounding his holdout and weight problem.
"The media can write what it wants, but I think it's the Bullets management that is instigating it all," he said.
Williams planned to drive back to Los Angeles yesterday. He said he will continue to run the hills and work out on his own, but he will not move east until his fines disappear.
"They've got their side, and I've got mine," he said. "I love this game, and I want to be playing. But, first, I want my money."
At midnight, a friend proposed a birthday toast. Williams shook his head. His mind seemed miles away.