Union turns to NBA to resolve King case

BOWIE — BOWIE -- Charles Grantham, president of the NBA Players Association, said yesterday that he will urge the league to take prompt action to determine Bernard King's status with the Washington Bullets.

On Thursday, the Bullets suspended King for four days for "actions detrimental to the team" after a shoving and shouting match between King and coach Wes Unseld at practice on Monday. King will miss one game, so the suspension will cost him about $30,000.


"The Bullets cannot keep Bernard King in limbo," said Grantham.

King, 36, is scheduled to practice next on Thursday. That will be 20 days after the forward first returned to Washington and announced himself fit to play. He missed all of last season following knee surgery.


Unseld insists he needs more than two practices to evaluate King's playing condition after such a lengthy layoff, but Grantham said King's physical condition should no longer be an issue.

"Bernard was cleared to play by both his own orthopedist [Dr. Norman Scott], and the Bullets' medical staff," Grantham said. "The only issue now facing the Bullets is whether to keep him or cut him. It's that simple.

"I'm not arguing his suspension. It was probably justified. But we cannot allow the Bullets to delay their decision indefinitely.

"Usually, teams are allotted seven or 10 days to determine a player's status coming off the injured list," Grantham said. "The league has given Washington a reasonable time period, but to start the clock all over again seems ridiculous, and we won't allow it."

King could have been activated to fill the roster spot vacated by reserve guard Doug Overton, who was placed on the five-game injured list yesterday with a tear in his left thumb. Surgery might be required.

But the Bullets opted to sign former North Carolina State playmaker Chris Corchiani, who had been waived by the Orlando Magic after appearing in nine games. Most recently he was playing for the Rapid City Thrillers in the Continental Basketball Association.

Grantham said that the Bullets -- in seeking a medical exemption for King in October in order to use half his guaranteed salary ($1.25 million) to sign lottery pick Tom Gugliotta -- had the NBA agree that there was little likelihood King would play this season.

"They determined he couldn't play; now they're saying maybe he can," said Grantham. "You can't have it both ways."


King's case is not unique, Grantham said. Last season, veteran guard Trent Tucker experienced a similar stalemate over his physical condition with the Phoenix Suns, who ultimately waived him.

Following an upbeat practice yesterday, Unseld said he will keep an open mind in evaluating King, if he returns.

Asked if King's demands to be reactivated immediately and be accorded starter's minutes would hurt the team, Unseld said, "We'll have to deal with that when it happens. But as both a player and coach, I've seen a lot of about-faces.

"Bernard and I have talked a lot over the last four years. It's like my wife. One day, she'll blister me to death, then the next minute I'm saying, 'Is this the same woman?' "

But several of the Bullets believe King will not return as a team player, and that he caused an irrevocable breach by publicly challenging Unseld.

"No one is bigger than the team. The team comes first," said co-captain Harvey Grant. "After being gone almost a year and a half, you have to get to know the seven new faces we have on the roster. You can't come in the first day making demands."


Added Gugliotta, "My feelings have nothing to do with my possibly losing some playing time to Bernard. If he's going to help us win games, everyone will welcome him. But I haven't seen any evidence of his wanting to help the team.

"We're having a hard time winning now, but with Bernard on the scene, there has been a lot of tension. We don't want to have everyone cutting each other's throat."

General manager John Nash, who imposed the suspension after consulting with team owner Abe Pollin, Unseld and team president Susan O'Malley, said King's $2.5 million contract and salary cap considerations will not enter into the decision to keep him or cut him.