LANDOVER -- When former Maryland star Albert King won his two-year battle to return to the NBA by surviving the Washington Bullets' final roster cuts yesterday, brother Bernard King was the first to congratulate him.
Bernard, who is likely to miss the first month of the season while recuperating from his latest knee surgery, knows what it is like to beat the odds. He came back from a career-threatening knee injury with the New York Knicks in 1985 to average 28.4 points and regain All-Star status last season.
"In a sense, Albert's achievement is just as great," said Bernard, taking a break from his rehabilitation program to attend the annual media day at the Capital Centre.
"It proves again, where there's a will, there's a way. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to play together this season. That would be fabulous."
Albert, who could help fill the void at small forward created by Bernard's injury, is one of five new faces on the Bullets' 12-man roster after the team waived guard Tim Legler of La Salle and center Cedric Lewis of Maryland.
Coppin State forward Larry Stewart, the big surprise of training camp, made the final cut along with point guard Corey Gaines of Loyola Marymount and swing guard David Wingate of Dunbar High and Georgetown. Wingate played previously for the Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs.
Gaines, who will back up point guard Michael Adams, acquired from the Denver Nuggets in a June trade, is still on shaky ground.
Wes Unseld will have to make room for top draft choice LaBradford Smith when the Louisville guard comes off the injured list in mid-November. Smith, who suffered a severe ankle sprain in September, got medical clearance to begin running yesterday.
"Albert showed us he could score points, while Stewart did a little bit of everything in the preseason games," said Unseld.
Added general manager John Nash, "Stewart has a knack for always being around the basket. He'll score wherever he plays."
Stewart, who unlike most small forwards lacks strong one-on-one moves and a consistent jump shot, led the Bullets in scoring (107 points) in their 0-8 preseason and averaged just under seven rebounds a game.
"Now I can relax," he said. "I don't have to worry about cuts anymore."
He had a chance to try out for the Dallas Mavericks, who lost forward Roy Tarpley, suspended for drug abuse, and have yet to sign No. 1 draft pick Doug Smith of Missouri.
"You never know what's going to happen," said Stewart, "but I'm glad I chose the Bullets."
Nash is glad that Albert King chose the Bullets, too. King played the 1987-88 season in Philadelphia when Nash was running the 76ers' front office.
"Albert really surprised me in terms of his conditioning," Nash said. "When we had him in Philadelphia, he was just coming off knee surgery. Now he's running and jumping much better.
"When he came into the league, he was one of the best small forwards. He's lost some of his agility, but he can still run and hit the perimeter shot. And his experience will prove valuable on a young team like ours."
"A lot of people said I'd never make it back to the NBA, and it's been a tough battle," said Albert King, who played for the Albany Patroons in the Continental Basketball Association last season. "First, I wanted to survive the Bullets' mini-camp in June. Then I wanted to make it through the veterans' camp. Now I have to keep playing aggressively to maintain my position."
NOTES: Unseld named starting F Harvey Grant and veteran reserve C Charles Jones his new co-captains. . . . Pervis Ellison, who has been nursing a groin pull, says he will be ready for Friday's opener in Indiana. . . . G Ledell Eackles left team to visit his ailing father in New Orleans.
No. Player.. .. .. Pos. .. .. Ht.
10 Michael Adams. .. .. G .. .. .. 5-10
31 x-Mark Alarie. .. .. F .. .. .. 6-8
21 Ledell Eackles .. .. G .. .. .. 6-5
43 Pervis Ellison .. .. F/C. .. .. 6-10
14 A.J. English.. .. .. G .. .. .. 6-3
42 Greg Foster .. .. .. F/C. .. .. 6-11
3 Corey Gaines .. .. .. G .. .. .. 6-4
44 Harvey Grant.. .. .. F .. .. .. 6-9
12 Tom Hammonds.. .. .. F .. .. .. 6-9
23 Charles Jones. .. .. F/C. .. .. 6-9
15 Albert King .. .. .. F .. .. .. 6-6
30 x-Bernard King .. .. F .. .. .. 6-7
22 x-LaBradford Smith.. G .. .. .. 6-3
33 Larry Stewart. .. .. F .. .. .. 6-8
34 y-John Williams.. .. F .. .. .. 6-9
55 David Wingate. .. .. G .. .. .. 6-5
x -- Will start season on injured list.
y -- Has not reported.