Bullets suspend King Forward, Unseld clashed at practice

January 15, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

The tenuous relationship between the Washington Bullets and veteran forward Bernard King reached the breaking point yesterday, when the four-time NBA All-Star was suspended for four days "for conduct detrimental to the team."

The suspension, which extends through Monday and cannot be appealed, will cost King one game's sal- ary -- about $30,000. It resulted from a shouting and shoving match between King and coach Wes Unseld at a team practice Monday morning.

Yesterday, general manager John Nash canceled a scouting trip to Philadelphia and returned to Washington to confer with Unseld, team owner Abe Pollin, vice chairman Jerry Sachs, president Susan O'Malley and legal counsel Dave Osnos over what action to take on King.

After imposing the suspension, Nash said: "The Washington Bullets won't be held hostage by Bernard King."

Pollin said: "The action John Nash has taken is the correct one. But only time will tell how Bernard's situation will resolve itself."

King could not be reached yesterday.

The 12-year NBA veteran has demanded that the team immediately reactivate him or release him after his 18-month absence because of knee surgery. King, 36, says he is ready to play after rehabilitating the knee. Since engaging in his first team practice Jan. 6, King has held two news conferences to underline those demands, but his confrontation with Unseld Monday, reported yesterday in The Washington Post, brought a quick response from management.

In a prepared statement, Nash said: "I returned from a scouting trip Monday outraged at what had taken place in regard to Bernard King.

"When King returned to the Bullets Jan. 1, he proceeded to make demands in meetings with Unseld and myself concerning his playing time and the time frame in which he would return to the active roster.

"Bernard stated that he would disrupt the team if his demands were not met. . . . He subsequently carried out these threats during Monday's practice. . . ."

When the suspension ends, King will be returned to the injured list. It then becomes Unseld's decision whether to have King continue to practice with the team or to release him.

Yesterday, Unseld confirmed the report of Monday's confrontation with King during a practice at Bowie State, but said that the incident would not influence his decision.

"It was just one of those things that happens occasionally on a team and shouldn't. But more is being made of it than necessary," said Unseld, who rejected King's demands to reactivate him in time for Tuesday's home game against the Milwaukee Bucks after he had participated in two practices.

According to team sources, King cursed Unseld after refusing to engage in a drill that tests backward mobility. He later called the coach "a thug" and push came to shove before several players intervened.

King's hostile attitude and demands that he be treated with the respect afforded an All-Star who averaged 28.4 points in his last full season (1990-91) clearly have alienated several of the Bullets.

After the Bullets lost in Boston Wednesday night, rookie forward Tom Gugliotta and co-captain Harvey Grant strongly suggested the future of the team best would be served by King's release.

"At first, I thought it [King's return] was good for the team," Gugliotta told the Boston Globe. "He's a great player and a terrific scorer.

"But then I started hearing from people who have known him the last few years, and they say he doesn't seem interested in how the Bullets do. That would be a distraction. There's no one on this team right now who cares more about themselves than the team."

Grant, who also would stand to lose playing time if King were reactivated, has said King's return would be counterproductive to the team's rebuilding plans.

"We're trying to build for the future," said Grant. "We're trying to establish some kind of continuity. Right now, we are working toward that.

"This is my fifth year with the team, and this is the closest team I've been with on and off the court."

Only center Pervis Ellison, who played one season with King, has spoke favorably of his return. Ellison said King, with his work ethic and offensive skills, could serve as a role model for the younger players.

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