The battle of wills continues between Washington Bullets forward John Williams and team management over his weight and conditioning program.
General manager John Nash spent the past two weeks scouting the Los Angeles Professional Summer League, composed mainly of rookies and young NBA players, with some veterans, including Williams, a five-year pro.
"I'm encouraged that John is far ahead of where he was this time last summer," said Nash. "But, at the same time, I'm discouraged by his weight [an estimated 276 pounds] and the fact that he is playing without a knee brace."
Nash, supported by the Bullets medical staff, wants Williams, who missed almost two full seasons after tearing the anterior cruciate in his right knee Dec. 4, 1989, to continue wearing the brace until he scales down to 260 pounds.
"We believe he's taking an unnecessary risk, and it's against our doctors' orders," Nash said. "I'd rather he didn't play at all. I talked to John about it last week, but he doesn't want to wear the brace any longer."
It was a stalemate over his weight and failure to maintain his prescribed therapy last summer that resulted in the Bullets suspending Williams, 24, and withholding his pay, until the fines reached more than $785,000.
Williams blamed his lack of conditioning and motivation on the drowning of a close friend and the failing health of his father. He finally returned to Washington last November on the eve of the 1990-91 NBA opener.
At the time he weighed 302 pounds and said he would probably need several months to reach playing condition.
The 6-foot-9 forward, who is considered the team's most versatile player, was not permitted to play until his weight approached 265, putting less pressure on his rehabilitated knee.
He was re-activated in San Antonio, Feb. 12, but it was not until the final month of the season that the Louisiana State alumnus began to display his pre-injury form. Williams averaged 19.6 points and 6.6 rebunds over the last 14 games.
The Bullets had hoped to keep him in the Washington area this summer, where his conditioning could be controlled by team strength coach Dennis Householder.
"I can't force him to stay here," Nash said. "Frankly, I don't care if he stays all summer in California, as long as he is some sort of a conditioning program, but I don't see that happening."
Williams could not be reached for comment yesterday.
His team, the L.A. Pros, comprised of mainly of Los Angeles natives, was leading the summer league. The Bullets-Detroit Pistons combined team had a 1-5 record, but Nash was encouraged by the play of the young Bullets, particularly rookie guard LaBradford Smith.
"LaBradford played strictly at the point and convinced us that he could be an an adequate back-up for Michael Adams," said Nash. Incumbent playmaker Darrell Walker is seeking to renegotiate his Bullets contract.
Second-year shooting guards A. J. English and Larry Robinson averaged in double figures and forward-center Greg Foster impressed Nash with his improved offensive game.
Third-year forward Tom Hammonds injured his ankle in the first game and withdrew from the summer league.