LANDOVER -- After months of being AWOL from the Washington Bullets, forward John Williams walked into a hastily-arranged news conference today and was greeted by applause.
For the Bullets, just having Williams in the same zipcode evidently is cause for celebration.
"I'm happy to be back," Wi
lliams said. "I want to get in shape as quickly as I can and then let my game speak for me."
Because of pending fines and money hassles, the Bullets and Williams have not communicated since training camp began. Two days ago, Bullets owner Abe Pollin called Williams in Los Angeles, told him of his concern for him, told him how much he wanted him back, how much he cares for him.
Yesterday, at 7.30 a.m., Williams picked up a pre-paid ticket and flew to Washington, where he was met at the airport by Pollin and team general manager John Nash.
With the NBA season opening tomorrow, neither Nash nor Pollin could imagine a more pleasing sight than Williams lumbering off the airplane.
"I told John he is one of the reasons I decided to take this job," said Nash, who became the team's GM in June. "When he gets in shape, he'll fit in -- anywhere he wants."
Williams was to undergo his team physical later today. He said his injured knee feels good. He also said he does not know how much he weighs, but admitted "I am embarrassed by how much I weigh."
Some estimates have had Williams near or over the 300-pound mark. Normally, the 6-9 forward plays at 245.
He is currently on the injured list, which means he has to miss at least five games. After those games, he can continue on the list until in shape to play. Once activated, the Bullets will have to make room for him on the regular roster, either by placing another player on the injured list or by making a cut.
Williams said he is ready to play now, "but not in shape to play. I am not going to go out there and embarrass myself."
Williams estimated it would take from two to four weeks to get himself in playing condition.
Coach Wes Unseld said he thinks it will take longer for Williams to get in top form, but was willing to admit he could be in shape to contribute in less time, "depending on John's motivation."
Then he added that Williams does seem motivated.
"I'm making a commitment to the Bullets and myself," said Williams, who celebrated his 24th birthday last week. "I want to get myself back together. I was sitting home, watching preseason games, picking up the paper and reading about the Bullets losing and I thought, 'What am I doing still at home? This is my career. I need to get myself together and get to Washington.' "
The Bullets said there is no further advancement in contract talks with Ledell Eackles, another player who was counted on to be in the starting lineup.
Eackles had been scheduled to start for departed scoring guard Jeff Malone.