BOWIE -- The Washington Bullets, who finished 1990 on a high note with a record-breaking, 161-133 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night, also received encouraging signs for the new year after watching forward John Williams participate in his first controlled full-court scrimmage at Bowie State yesterday.
Williams, who has not played since tearing ligaments in his right knee Dec. 2, 1989, experienced no pain or swelling in the knee after cutting, moving laterally and rebounding in game-like situations.
"I thought he looked pretty good out there, but condition-wise, he still has a long way to go," said coach Wes Unseld. "It's still encouraging that he doesn't seem to be favoring the knee at all."
The Bullets had set a mid-January target date for Williams' possible return to active status, but that now appears to be a trifle optimistic. Even Williams expressed some doubts about being ready to play again in two weeks.
"I'm just doing the best I can, but I can't say exactly when I'll be back," he said. "A lot depends on how my daily therapy sessions are going. I'm still not really in shape. I have some weight to lose."
Williams' weight had been the Bullets prime concern in monitoring his rehabilitation. He returned to Washington in early November weighing close to 300 pounds. The 6-foot-9 forward, considered the team's best all-around player, now appears closer to 275, though his weight remains a team secret.
He did not exhibit his usual quickness in handling the ball or soaring for rebounds, but the scrimmage was more geared to half court and running set plays.
"I'm just picking my spots now," Williams said. "Playing like this gave me confidence I can make it back. The knee didn't give me trouble before, during or after the workout.
"I know I can make basketball cuts. It's just a matter of getting my timing back and picking up speed. I'm just trying to keep up the pace and help out on offense by setting up my teammates. Right now, I'm mostly trying to get used to all the new players on the team."
Since Williams last played for the Bullets, five new players have been added to the roster, with holdover Harvey Grant filling his spot at power forward in the starting lineup.
When Williams is reactivated, the Bullets will be forced to cut a player from their present 12-man roster. To free a spot, general manager John Nash is seeking a possible trade for a future draft choice, with reserve guard Byron Irvin as the most likely bait.
In the meantime, Williams will continue his daily rehabilitation under the supervision of Bullets strength coach Dennis Householder.
"The coaches are working on John's skills, and I'm working on his weight," said Householder.
NOTES: The players will make a music video at the Capital Centre tomorrow afternoon based on the song "Wooly Bully," by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. The words were changed to suit the Bullets. Proceeds from sales will go to charity.