SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- William Bedford is a ma without a past. At least, the 7-foot-1 center, who joined the Washington Bullets yesterday, would prefer it that way.
Bedford was eager to make a favorable impression on Wes Unseld, his new coach, voluntarily remaining after morning practice for extra shooting and running in the spacious Shepherd College gym.
But Bedford then declined to answer any questions concerning his past drug addiction and behavioral problems that led to his being labeled an underachiever his first six seasons in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons.
"I prefer to keep everything in the future," said Bedford, who was traded by Detroit to the Los Angeles Clippers in June, only to be dealt to the Bullets last Thursday along with rookie forward Don MacLean in exchange for John Williams.
"I've been sitting most of my pro career," he said. "Now I have a chance to show a new coach what I can do, and not to be judged by things they've heard about me."
But it is impossible to ignore the past in trying to understand Bedford, the sixth player chosen in the 1986 draft.
The former Memphis State star seldom left the Pistons bench the past five seasons while serving as a backup to Bill Laimbeer.
But it was the seemingly indifferent attitude Bedford displayed when given an opportunity to play that antagonized the Pistons. Last summer, team captain Isiah Thomas said Bedford was unworthy of wearing a Pistons uniform.
Suspended by the league in 1986 and again in 1988 for cocaine use, Bedford begged his teammates for understanding.
"Why can't they just be men and understand?" he told The Detroit News. "I want to play as hard as anyone else."
It was determined last summer that Bedford needed psychological counseling. His condition was diagnosed as a chemical imbalance that made him hyperactive and inattentive.
Bedford enrolled at the Psychiatric Center of Montgomery County in Maryland, where the stimulant Ritalin was prescribed to improve his attention span.
"William's condition is common even though he is not a child," Bedford's agent, Bill Merriweather, told the Detroit Free Press. "Doctors told us millions of people are afflicted with this."
Bedford said yesterday that he is still taking medication.
Working on the last guaranteed year of a contract that has him earning $925,000 this season, Bedford will have to prove himself worthy in training camp or likely will find himself packaged in another trade.
In auditioning Bedford, the Bullets were hoping he could relieve the rebounding burden of veterans Pervis Ellison and Harvey Grant. But Bedford's track record has shown little evidence of being a physical inside player and his scoring has resulted primarily from a soft outside touch.
"I'm only going to try to prove to myself that I can sustain an 82-game schedule and hopefully go to the playoffs," he said.
L Bedford missed the evening practice with a pulled hamstring.
* MacLean is expected to be signed by today when he will report to camp. But the former UCLA star must first be examined by the Bullets doctors.