EMMITSBURG -- Abe Pollin delivered his annual state of the Bullets address in training camp yesterday, reiterating his vow that he will not trade veteran forward John Williams, absent for the second straight year in a wage dispute.
Though Pollin touched on many topics, Williams was the main subject at Mount St. Mary's College.
A year ago, Pollin asked Williams to return to the Bullets after missing training camp and the preseason schedule. This time, ++ however, Pollin said Williams can remain at home in Los Angeles until he is willing to fulfill his existing contract.
"It's time pro athletes live up to their responsibility," Pollin said. "Pro athletes are no different than anyone else who makes a commitment or signs a contract.
"The easy way out for an athlete is to say, 'Trade me,' but I won't let John Williams back away from his commitment. He's supposed to be here. He has an obligation."
Pollin said he has received 15 to 20 calls and letters supporting his stand against Williams.
"So far, I haven't had any negative response," he said. "What I have done is more than right as far as being fair to him, and, in his heart, John knows that is true."
At issue is a reported $368,000 withheld from Williams' salary last season, when the overweight forward missed 43 games before the Bullets' medical staff cleared him to play Feb. 12.
In the past, other Bullets have asked for trades or renegotiated contracts, and Pollin has responded to their demands in different ways.
Most recently, point guard Darrell Walker said Pollin had agreed to alter his contract, but the Bullets responded by trading him to the Detroit Pistons last month.
After watching yesterday's practice, Pollin said he was impressed by the talent on hand and the physical condition of the players.
"Naturally, we would like to have Bernard King [knee], Mark Alarie [knee] and LaBradford Smith [ankle] here from the start," said Pollin, "but injuries are a part of the game.
PD "In 1978, when I got this championship ring, we went through the
season without any major injuries. Maybe this year we'll be fortunate in getting our players back early."
Turning to economics, Pollin said he is encouraged on the increase in season-ticket sales to a record 6,000, and also expects increased revenue this season from national TV, regional radio and team sponsorships.
Last season, the NBA said the Bullets were one of four teams to lose money and were due a $750,000 refund from the league.
"I've always said that Washington is a very unique town," Pollin said. "Everybody is from somewhere else, and they don't regard Washington as their home. They just don't have their roots here.
"As a consequence, all the sports teams, except the Redskins, ** who play only eight home games, suffer along with the opera,
ballet, the museums and hospitals."