Weight and see Bullets' Williams promises a new attitude


LANDOVER -- Everybody wants a little rest and relaxation during the summer and John Williams is no different than the rest of us.

Except that Williams is a basketball player with the Washington Bullets. A forward, to be exact, and a forward with a weight problem, to be exactly precise.

So, there probably won't be very much rest and relaxation for the 6-foot-9 five-year veteran this summer, as he and the Bullets try to work and worry him down to size.

"Things are going to work out real good," said Williams, who was a surprise guest at the team's news conference yesterday to unveil LaBradford Smith, the Bullets' first-round pick in last week's NBA draft.

As members of the local press corps descended upon him, Williams was reflective and pretty much contrite about events since Dec. 4, 1989.

That was the night he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, ending his 1989-90 season.

Life since then hasn't been the same for the Bullets or Williams.

"I'm trying to work my way back into the shape to show the Bullets that I'm thankful that they didn't give up on me," said Williams.

The Bullets expected Williams, a Los Angeles native, to work out and get himself into playing shape for last season, but inexplicably the team lost contact with him for a prolonged period.

Finally, when they found him, the Bullets discovered that Williams' weight had ballooned over 300 pounds, more than 65 pounds above his optimum playing weight of 235.

He was with the team when the season opened, but remained on the suspended list until Feb. 3.

And though he was woefully out of shape and appeared to be favoring the injured knee at times when he returned, Williams still managed to average 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists over the last 14 games of the year, playing at a weight above his pre-injury figure, but acceptable to team doctors.

"It took me almost half the season to get down to that weight. I never could jump. I just wanted to get my wind back," said Williams.

"Last year by the end of the season, I started getting some swelling [in the knee], but I was starting to get on a roll. I was starting to feel like my old self."

And because his old self, which is all of 25 years old, has the potential to be one of the NBA's more gifted and versatile players, the Bullets are willing to go as slowly as they can with Williams.

"It was good to see John," said Bullets general manager John Nash. "But it's July 1. I would be more encouraged if he were back to a good weight on Oct. 1, the first day of training camp."

Nash said he feels Williams still needs to lose another 10 to 20 pounds to be at his optimum weight.

On that subject, Williams would not disclose his precise weight, except to say that he "wishes" he were at 240 pounds, which is just above his playing weight.

He added that he has lost 5 to 7 pounds since the season ended in April and he is following a doctor's diet.

Williams will be heading home to Los Angeles soon to play in that city's summer basketball leagues.

So far, he has discovered his basketball gifts are returning and he doesn't even think about his knee.

"I try to go around my man and if he's there, I just spin on him," said Williams. "I'm really confident."

Maybe, just as importantly, Williams says he's dedicated to working hard to atone for last year.

"I'm trying to stick to the game plan," said Williams. "I want to get off to a good start. If I do that, that will give us some confidence.

"I'm very fortunate to be here. There are a lot of other players that would like to be in my shoes."

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