LANDOVER -- Bernard King was an unexpected guest at the Washington Bullets' tipoff luncheon yesterday. Unfortunately, he did not come to announce he is ready to get back on the playing floor.
His face is on the cover of the Bullets' media guide, but he said it won't be in the lineup any time soon.
When the Bullets open the 1991-92 season in Indiana Friday night, they'll be missing his leadership, not to mention the 28.4 points he averaged last season when he made the NBA All-Star team to complete a six-year comeback from career-threatening knee surgery.
It's the right knee again -- the one that had been operated on in 1985 to repair a torn ligament. King felt discomfort in the knee during the summer and underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage on Sept. 6.
The Bullets hoped he would be back by December, but King says it will be later than that.
"It would be unfair to set a timetable since I'm not at a point where I can do the necessary work to get it [his knee] to the point where I can actually play," King said. "I can only do what my body allows me to do and I do that diligently. I work hard at it, but my body has to cooperate and right now it isn't."
King said the joint in his knee is giving him unexpected pain, limiting what he can do. He said he's not certain if it's a setback.
"The problem is, what constitutes a setback?" he said. "The joint gives me pain. Is that a setback or is that something that is derived from the surgery? It's really hard to judge."
Yesterday, King sat at a table with his brother Albert, who learned only a short time earlier that he had made the final cut.
Bullets coach Wes Unseld announced his 12-man roster, which includes forwards Albert King of Maryland and Larry Stewart of Coppin State, and guards David Wingate of Georgetown and Dunbar High andCorey Gaines of Loyola Marymount.
Cut were forward Cedric Lewis of Maryland and guard Tim Legler of LaSalle.
Unseld also said he had named Charles Jones and Harvey Grant co-captains.
King, Mark Alarie (arthroscopic knee surgery) and No. 1 draft choice LaBradford Smith (ankle) are on the injured list.
Bullets general manager John Nash placed forward John Williams on the suspended list and called reports that at least three teams have contacted him in regard to acquiring Williams "pure tripe."
Nash said he is disappointed that Bernard King will not be ready during the early part of the season, but is optimistic that he'll come back strong.
King said the Bullets are not rushing him. "They're giving me the time I need to make a full recovery," he said.
"Obviously, I'd love to do a lot more than I'm doing. But it's not the kind of thing that if you spend two hours, you're going to be better. You have to work strictly within the framework of what the knee allows," King said. "And if you don't listen to your knee, that's when you really start to have problems. What we're working on is the long-term healing, not the short term."
King, who will be 35 years old Dec. 4, said he is working out with weights. Conditioning, he said, is not his problem.
"I'm not discouraged, because I didn't know what to expect. You can't anticipate a whole lot . . . It's always a shock when it doesn't respond readily to what you are trying to do, but I am aware that my knee is not normal from the extent that I had major knee surgery six years ago. Consequently, you have to treat it a little differently. But I've been down this road before and I've come through the whole process. So I don't see why I shouldn't come through this."