Agent seeks trade for Williams Bullets fine forward for missing camp

October 05, 1991|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

EMMITSBURG -- The agent for Washington Bullets forward John Williams yesterday labeled his stormy relationship with the NBA team "a failed marriage with irreconcilable differences" and pleaded for a trade and an end to this "tiresome, two-year soap opera."

Fred Slaughter of Santa Monica, Calif., who also represents Williams as his attorney, was responding to threats of fines and suspension by Bullets management after the 6-foot-9 forward failed to appear at the opening day of training camp at Mount St. Mary's College.

Bullets owner Abe Pollin said yesterday: "John Williams was expected to be in camp. He will be fined for missing camp. The Bullets will make no attempt and spend no energies to locate him.

"If he is not in uniform opening night, he will be suspended. The Bullets will not trade John Williams nor issue further comment until it is warranted."

Before the gag order, general manager John Nash said: "As far as I'm concerned, John's career with the Bullets is over. We're through worrying about him.

"He has hung us out to dry, and now he will be treated the same way. He has let his teammates down for two consecutive years. He is an exceptional talent, but now we're going on without him."

The Bullets withheld Williams' pay for the first four months last season while team doctors kept him sidelined until he reached a prescribed weight of 260 pounds in order to play onthe right knee he had injured Dec. 2, 1989.

Slaughter said Pollin "changed the rules" after agreeing last October to give Williams his full pay if he returned to the team. Slaughter filed a grievance with the NBA Players Association last May over Williams' salary in escrow, but as yet no arbitration hearing has been scheduled.

I've written countless letters to the players association, but apparently they fall between the chairs," Slaughter said. "All I can say is nothing has been done.

"The Bullets set up all these new weight conditions in response to John filing a grievance. It was a covert action that I was never made aware of."

An NBA Players Association spokeswoman in New York said yesterday, "The grievance is in the process of being reviewed. We have to work with the NBA and the arbitration committee."

Slaughter said he is not responsible for Williams' absence, a repeat performance of last year, when Williams did not surface until the day before the 1990-91 season opener.

"I detest anyone saying I'm telling John to do this or that," the agent said. "He's an independent thinker. As far as I know, John could be flying to Washington right now. I can't go to camp for him.

"The Bullets are using the weight issue as a smoke screen. He has always had weight problems, but, at the same, he has always performed well and been a problem for anyone defending him."

Nash said the Bullets were willing to return all money owed Williams if he kept his weight under control and reported to camp in playing shape. His official weigh-ins began in June, when he passed at 274, with requirements to shed four pounds each month.

Williams, who turns 25 in three weeks, failed to make weight in July and did not show for a scheduled trip to the scales Aug. 1, when Nash was scouting the Los Angeles Summer League.

Two weeks ago, Slaughter said Nash sent him an edict: "He told me that if John wasn't in Washington this past week, he could just sit it out in California.

"The Bullets are trying to say John is not marketable," said Slaughter, "but a club official told me this summer that at least one team was willing to offer a middle-round first-round draft choice.

"If anything, his knee should be a concern for other teams and their doctors, but the knee has been rehabilitated. A week ago, I watched him toy with other NBA players on Magic Johnson's court in Westwood.

Nash would not specify the amount of Williams' fines during his absence from camp, but said the sum would grow once preseason games began Oct. 13. His multiyear contract expires in 1994, and was reportedly worth $1.2 million last season before substantial fines were imposed.

Unseld's problems were magnified yesterday, when veteran guard Ledell Eackles reported in poor playing condition and scratched himself from the team's annual 1 1/2 -mile run. He also left the evening practice, complaining of a sore foot.

With small forward Bernard King recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, Unseld had considered shifting Eackles up front and operating with a three-guard offense.

"Right now, I'm not thinking of using Ledell anywhere," Unseld said.

Williams and Eackles' work habits have not pleased their teammates.

Said veteran forward Harvey Grant: "With John and Ledell here, and in shape, we could win 45 to 50 games. Without them, it's a real struggle. Everyone is fed up with the stuff going on."

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