Williams shows up at last Bullets keep forward on suspended list

November 01, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

In an almost eerie repeat of last season, veteran forward John Williams reappeared in Landover yesterday on the eve of the Washington Bullets' season opener.

Williams, 25, who again sat out all of training camp in a salary dispute, met with Bullets vice chairman Jerry Sachs and general manager John Nash at the team's Capital Centre office.

In a terse message to the media, Nash said, "When John Williams passes his physical and is deemed by team doctors and head coach Wes Unseld that he is fit and ready to play, then we will make the necessary roster adjustments."

The Bullets posted their official 12-man roster with the league at 6 p.m. yesterday, adding free-agent guard Andre Turner and cutting Corey Gaines, another free-agent guard.

Another roster move would be needed to accommodate Williams, who has his physical exam scheduled today. In the meantime, the fifth-year veteran will start the 1991-92 season on the suspended list, just as he did last season. He will be docked a game's pay for each one he misses until reactivated.

Once again, his weight (an estimated 275 pounds) and lack of game-type conditioning are the prime concerns of Unseld and team physicians.

Williams, who is 6 feet 9, weighed more than 300 pounds when he reported last fall, and it was not until February, after missing 49 games, that he was allowed to resume his career.

Calls to Williams' home in Lanham last night went unanswered.

Commenting on Williams' latest suspension, his agent, Fred Slaughter of Santa Monica, Calif., said: "It was highly predictable. To do it any other way cuts against the grain of the Bullets' position."

Slaughter reiterated that he did not influence Williams to remain in California until his arbitration was heard.

"John made the decision to show up. It cuts off some of the negative press. It was a manly act, but now he has to deal with the circumstances up, down and in the middle."

Slaughter said he had not seen Williams recently enough to comment on his condition, but added, "If they put him on the court right now, I feel he'd hold his own."

In most cases, the return of a player of Williams' stature would be greeted enthusiastically. But his repeated weight problems and failure to attend camp have left team officials frustrated and angry.

Williams boycotted this preseason to protest the withholding of an estimated $500,000 from his 1990-1991 salary of $1.1 million for missing 49 games while trimming down to 260 pounds.

Slaughter filed for arbitration over the disputed pay with the NBA Players Association last March, but, as yet, no hearing has been set. The NBAPA expected to agree on a date with league and Bullets officials today.

It is Slaughter's position that the Bullets reneged on their offer to rescind all fines and pay Williams his full salary after he reported for work last November. He said they instituted new weight clauses in Williams' contract without his knowledge or approval.

Under the new stipulation, Williams was paid $100,000 when he trimmed down to 272 pounds in June. Required to lose 4 pounds a month, Williams failed to make 268 in July and bypassed the scheduled August weigh-in by Nash in Los Angeles.

In a fax to Nash on Wednesday, Slaughter warned the Bullets that they should not attempt to sign Williams to any new agreements.

It has been Nash's position that Williams is already under contract and that the team had no intention of trading him.

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