An NBA arbitrator has ruled in favor of the Washington Bullets in forward John Williams' grievance to recoup $426,000 in pay withheld from his 1990-91 salary of $1.2 million.
A league source said arbitrator Daniel Collins, a New York University law professor, based his findings on Williams' failure to fulfill his obligation to make prescribed weights last summer under terms of a separate contract agreement he signed with the Bullets in April. He had been docked his pay for sitting out the first 49 games of the 1990-91 season while under medical suspension.
Neither general manager John Nash nor Williams' attorney-agent, Fred Slaughter, of Santa Monica, Calif., would comment on yesterday's ruling.
Slaughter filed another grievance claim this season when Williams, after missing all of training camp, reported weighing 305 pounds and was again suspended by the Bullets' medical staff.
Charles Grantham, president of the NBA Players Association, said yesterday that he would need more time to study Collins' decision before determining whether to pursue the new grievance with the league.
Both Slaughter and Nash held little hope of Williams playing again for the Bullets, who once viewed the versatile 6-foot-9 forward as one of the cornerstones in their rebuilding plans.
Williams, a No. 1 draft pick in 1986 after leaving LSU following his sophomore season, averaged 18.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists his fourth season with the Bullets before suffering a knee injury in December 1990. Since then, he has been fighting a weight problem with little success and did not adhere to the team's rehabilitation program.
Slaughter characterized Williams' relationship with the Bullets as "a failed marriage." Nash has said that for all intents and purposes, Williams' career as a Bullet "has ended." He also has refused to entertain trade offers, contending the team would not get true value for Williams in his present condition.
Only team owner Abe Pollin held hope for a reconciliation.
"I'm not writing John Williams off," said Pollin. "I'd love to have him call me and say that he is in playing shape [260 pounds] and ready to come back to Washington. I harbor no hard feelings.
"I still believe we were right and more than fair in our dealings with John, and that he received bad counsel in filing for arbitration."
Williams, now reportedly enrolled in a diet program in his hometown of Los Angeles, had signed an agreement April 18, 1991 that gave him the opportunity to recoup $526,000 of his $1.2 million held in escrow.
Under the agreement, Williams would receive installments of $100,000 for shedding 4 pounds a month beginning in June. He passed the first test at 272, to reclaim $100,000, but failed the second in July and then refused to be weighed again.
Slaughter contended that the contract addendum was illegal since Williams was not advised by counsel. But the standard league contract specifies that a player must report in shape, and Williams' bloated figure left no reasonable doubt.