LANDOVER -- A summer of acrimony ended in a spirit of harmony yesterday when veteran forward John Williams rejoined the Washington Bullets.
With some comparing the Bullets to an expansion team, new general manager John Nash said he found Williams' presence "to be a breath of fresh air."
Williams, 24, who has been recuperating from knee surgery performed last December that sidelined him for the remainder of the 1989-90 season, skipped training camp in protest of a $270,000 fine imposed on him for failing to maintain his rehabilitation program.
But yesterday, Williams and Bullets management were in a conciliatory mood.
Nash said the fine issue had been resolved, but would not spell out the details of the settlement.
"It wasn't really the money," Williams said at a news conference. "I realized that I wanted to get my life and game back together. This is my career, and it's all in my hands.
"I was sitting at home in Los Angeles watching the NBA preseason games and wondering why I wasn't playing myself. I'd hear about the Bullets losing another exhibition game, and it hurt and played with my mind. I knew if I was playing, it would be a different outcome. Once I get back, look out!"
A conservative estimate is that Williams, an all-purpose forward who helps the Bullets with his ball-handling, scoring and rebounding talent, will not be ready to play for more than a month. Technically, he has been placed on injured reserve for five games, beginning with the season opener at Miami tonight.
"I believe my knee is sound, and I'm anxious to play, but I'm not in shape," Williams said. "I always play 100 percent, all-out, but I'm not prepared to do that now. I don't want to embarrass myself by playing in a game now."
Nash and coach Wes Unseld concurred that it would be up to the Bullets' medical staff to determine when Williams, who is overweight, will be allowed to join the team in workouts and be added to the roster.
Williams underwent a physical examination in Washington yesterday, but the Bullets would not comment on the findings.His weight, more than anything else, seemed to be an extremely sensitive issue with Bullets officials.
Like former heavyweight boxing champion Buster Douglas, Williams said he has not stepped on a scale in months. He has been working out on his own and playing against members of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers in informal scrimmages at the UCLA gym.
But a week ago, while attending the Douglas-Evander Holyfield title match in Las Vegas, Williams confided to a reporter that he weighed at least 280 pounds, 20 more than his desired playing weight.
The four-year veteran accepted full responsibility for failing to maintain his therapy regime and adding excess weight.
Asked whether he thought he had acted irresponsibly, he said: "Yes, I think that's fair. But I had personal problems this summer. My father was sick, and close friends passed away. I got in a shell.
"I could have been more committed. But this was the first time I had experienced a serious injury, and I didn't approach it in the right way. If I had gone to therapy every day, I'd have been back playing already."
After months of wondering whether Williams might sit out the season, the Bullets are more than willing to wait for his full recovery.
Team owner Abe Pollin decided Tuesday to make personal contact with the recalcitrant player.
"I don't think it was my line of reasoning that finally got him here," Pollin said. "I just think John was ready to come and just looking for someone to help ease the way. When I met him at the airport last night [Wednesday], he said, 'I'm so happy to be here.' "
Said Unseld: "I'm as happy for John as much as the team. Obviously, he is one of our better players and legitimizes us because we can use him in so many different roles. He still has a lot of work ahead of him, but he seems to be really motivated now.
"To play in this league, you need a big ego. But John saw that the team and league was going on without him. He just decided he was in the wrong place sitting at home. A degree of maturity came out. I think everything he has been through this summer will help him mature and attain an even higher level of excellence on the basketball floor."
/# Nov. 2 at Miami (Ch. 20) 8 p.m.
Nov. 3 Chicago (HTS) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 at New York (Ch. 20) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 Milwaukee (HTS) 8 p.m.
Nov. 12 at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 13 at Charlotte 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Philadelphia (Ch. 20) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 17 Boston (HTS) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 20 Sacramento (HTS) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 23 at Detroit (Ch. 20) 8 p.m.
Nov. 24 Indiana 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 27 Golden State (HTS) 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 at Chicago (Ch. 20) 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 30 at Boston (Ch. 20) 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 Detroit (HTS) 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 3 at Utah (Ch. 20) 9:30 p.m.
Dec. 5 at Golden State 10:30 p.m.
Dec. 6 at Sacramento 10:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Los Angeles Lakers (Ch. 20) 10:30 p.m.
Dec. 11 at Denver 9:30 p.m.
Dec. 14 Houston (HTS) 8 p.m.
Dec. 15 at Atlanta (Ch. 20) 7:30 p.m.