LANDOVER -- Forward Bernard King, who was considered a $2 million gamble when the Washington Bullets first signed him as a free agent in 1987, proved he has become the team's indispensable man by agreeing yesterday to a new, guaranteed, two-year contract for an estimated $4 million.
Asked why he chose to remain with the Bullets rather than become a free agent at the end of this season, King said, "I have an affinity for this team and coach [Wes] Unseld, who has helped make me a more complete player.
"The Bullets stepped forward when there were a lot of question marks about my career, and many people weren't sure if I had a real future as a player. They showed they had faith in me, but I think I've repaid them with my performance on the court."
King, who will turn 34 Tuesday, is leading the league with a 30.9 scoring average and carrying almost one-third of the Bullets' offense.
King was signed by Washington in 1987 to a two-year deal after spending almost two full seasons rehabilitating the knee he injured in March 1985 playing for the New York Knicks, and now is in the second year of a two-year, $3.1 million contract extension.
During training camp, King had accused Bullets general manager John Nash of putting his contract negotiations on "the back burner." But Nash, who replaced Bob Ferry in June, said he was using the time to evaluate the team personnel, particularly young forwards Harvey Grant and Tom Hammonds.
With King forced to pick up the scoring slack of traded guard Jeff Malone and rehabilitating forward John Williams, Nash said he quickly realized his importance to the team.
"It made sense to sign Bernard now based on his performance and how productive we feel he can be over the next several seasons," said Nash, who completed the contract agreement without the presence of King's Boston-based attorney, Bob Woolf.
"With Bernard, you get the total package. He is a dedicated worker, a high scorer, good teammate and excellent passer. Obviously, he sets a fine example for our younger players on and off the court."
Nash also discounted trade rumors involving King and said the Bullets did not sign him with the intention of making a future deal.