Williams: It's weight and see Clippers patient with hefty forward

February 19, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- If nothing else, John Williams is extremely brave or has a great sense of humor.

Hanging in his cubicle in the Los Angeles Clippers dressing room is a sports jacket with the inscription, "Fatburger, The Great Hamburger."

Yes, by now John Williams must have heard every fat joke in existence. But he perseveres. He is trying to put his basketball life back in order after almost two full seasons in limbo as an overstuffed, under-motivated Washington Bullets forward.

Williams, 26, who was a high school phenom at Crenshaw High, is playing again in his hometown. And the Clippers fans, his teammates and, most of all, his coach, Larry Brown, have shown unusual patience as he tries to rekindle the memories of when he was being hailed as one of the best young forwards in the NBA.

But it has been a struggle. Even though Williams was averaging 23 minutes and 6.3 points as a sixth man before his 26-minute, five-point effort in last night's win over the Washington Bullets, shedding weight continues to be a major problem for the sixth-year pro.

No one will give you an exact number, but it's a safe guess that Williams, 6 feet 9, still hovers around 300 pounds.

"He was doing OK when we were back East in December," said strength coach Carl Horne, who has made Williams his special project. "He'd taken off about 30 pounds and got under 300. But when he gets home, he just seems to put it right back on. You've got to watch him like a hawk."

Williams said he "feels lighter," is running better and even managing to dunk, which was beyond his reach at the start of the season.

"I still need to shed another 30 pounds," said Williams, who was placed on medical suspension by the Bullets last season when )) he failed toreach their 260-pound limit. "I need to get back to where I was before I tore up my knee in 1989.

"But everybody here has been real supportive. They know I need to lose weight and have a long way to go, but they accepted me the way I was. They see I'm trying to work it off."

Brown, who was willing to trade a promising first-round draft pick in UCLA's Don MacLean for a chance to resurrect Williams, said there are times he gets discouraged in watching the slow progress.

"John has been playing like this," said Brown, waving his hand in a roller-coaster fashion. "Certainly, I'm disappointed he didn't get the weight off sooner. But I knew it wouldn't be easy.

"I haven't lost patience in him, because I know the knee is still a factor in hindering his recovery. You have to be real sensitive about it. It's hard for him to play back-to-back games. But he has still done a lot of positive things for us."

Williams downplayed the emotion of making his first appearanceagainst his former team, coaches and general manager, John Nash, who did not hide his distaste for Williams' work ethic.

"I'm treating it as just another game," he said. "Heck, there are only four guys left -- Charles Jones, Michael Adams, Pervis Ellison and Harvey Grant -- from when I was in Washington. It's just not the same for either of us."

For Brown, the important date in Williams' comeback is March 4, when he returns to the Cap Centre.

"I just hope that, by then, John is in decent shape and ready to show the people he can still play this game at a high level," said Brown.

And maybe Williams will leave his Fatburger jacket in L.A.

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