INDIANAPOLIS -- Veteran forward John Williams, labeled "grossly overweight and out of shape," failed his physical yesterday by the Washington Bullets medical staff. Tipping the scales at 305 pounds, he has been suspended without pay for the second straight season.
Williams, 25, already is $500,000 out of pocket for missing 49 games last season, when he also reported to work at more than 300 pounds after boycotting training camp.
As was the case last season, he will not be allowed to rejoin the team until he gets down to 260 pounds and is declared physically fit by both the doctors and coach Wes Unseld.
The Bullets' No. 1 draft choice in 1986, Williams was viewed as a cornerstone in the team's rebuilding plans. Now there is uncertainty as to whether he will perform for the Bullets again.
His once-promising career began a serious decline in December 1989, when he tore the medial collateral cartilage in his right knee. He has been battling a weight problem since.
Last year, he failed to adhere to the team's rehabilitation program. This summer, the team established a monthly schedule of weigh-ins for Williams, giving him the incentive to recover all his back pay.
Starting in June at 276, he was required to lose 4 pounds a month, which would bring him into training camp at 260. But after passing the first test, Williams flunked the weigh-in in July and failed to appear in August.
He again sat out training camp while seeking to regain his withheld salary through arbitration.
His agent, Fred Slaughter, of Santa Monica, Calif., filed last March with the NBA Players Association, but, as yet, NBAPA president Charles Grantham has not been able to reach an agreed date for the hearing with Bullets management and league officials.
It appears Williams, who was to have earned $1.1 million this year, will have another substantial sum held in escrow until he is deemed in "good playing condition."
Last season, that did not occur until Feb. 12, when Williams rejoined the team, averaging 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists during the last 33 games.
A year ago, strength coach Dennis Householder and Unseld worked individually to speed Williams' weight loss and conditioning. This season, the team has taken the hardened position that it is strictly Williams' responsibility to regain playing form.
This was made evident in the statement by general manager John Nash: "His failure to achieve the prescribed weight of 260 by Oct. 1, and his failure to attend training camp, which would have enabled him to work on his condition, leave us no choice but to suspend him.
"He will have access to our facilities for the purposes of conditioning, but is not permitted to practice, nor is he expected to attend practices or games."
Team president Susan O'Malley, who attended the road opener in Indiana last night, added, said: "I'm disappointed for John Williams, but I'm also disappointed for the team. He would make us that much better."
Williams was not available for comment.