Pervis Ellison sat in the chair in front of his locker, his long legs stretched out in front of him. Covering his knees were two huge ice packs, delicately strapped on by Washington Bullets trainer John Lally.
"It felt pretty good," Ellison said. "I didn't do a whole lot, but it felt good."
The good feeling spread all around the Bullets camp yesterday as Ellison, one day after being cleared to practice with the team on a limited basis, took the floor with his teammates at the team's training facility at Bowie State University. After extensive rehabilitation on knees that required off-season surgery, Ellison is embarking on another step on his road to recovery.
"It was encouraging just to see him walking from his car to the site," Bullets general manager John Nash said. "It's good from a number of standpoints, mainly psychological. I think it gives the guys on the team a sense of reinforcements on the way, and that's good when the reinforcement is one of your best players, like Pervis."
Ellison, who has yet to be cleared to scrimmage at full speed, participated in shooting and layup drills yesterday. While the team has said that he should be cleared to play Dec. 1, Ellison said, "Hopefully, I'll be ready by the West Coast trip," which begins Dec. 6 in Seattle.
The Bullets will not attempt to rush Ellison's return. He was limited to 49 games -- primarily at center -- last season, and the Bullets are looking forward to working with a front line of Ellison, 6 feet 10, 225 pounds, at power forward, Kevin Duckworth at center and Tom Gugliotta at small forward. But even with the December target date, the team is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
"It's hard for me to get too excited, because frequently you get players to a point where you think they're ready, and then they suffer a setback," Nash said. "He's still not fully recovered, and until he's given clearance to practice, we'll have to monitor how things go the next couple of weeks."
And Ellison, who was expected to be with the team at the start of camp, does not appear to be in a rushing mood.
"It's a situation where I'm doing all the non-contact things we're doing in practice," Ellison said. "It's not like being back and going all-out -- I'm not at that point yet."
For Ellison, watching from the bench has been one of the most difficult adjustments.
"That's the toughest part, because there are situations from the bench where I think that if I were out there I could help the team do this, help the team do that," Ellison said. "But it's also been a learning experience, because now when I go out there I realize what my attributes are and what I need to do to make the team better."
Ellison is eager to join Duckworth and Gugliotta on the front line.
"Tom's natural position is probably at small forward, and that's definitely going to help me and Duck, because he'll be able to see over the defense more at that position," Ellison said. "And I'll be able to free up Duck to do some of the other aspects of his game, like his jump shooting. When I'm out there, I'll be in the low block sometimes, and he'll be able to get comfortable shooting his shot."
When Ellison and Larry Stewart (broken foot) return, decisions will have to be made on the roster. With free agents Kenny Walker and Mitchell Butler demonstrating they can help the Bullets, Nash said yesterday that he's open to trade talk.
"[Walker and Butler] have played remarkably well and have identified themselves as NBA players -- their play has been as good as others on our roster," Nash said. "We'll wait to address that situation.
"A trade could happen -- a two-for-one or three-for-one for a pick that might be able to open a roster spot," Nash added. "At the end of the preseason, we sent notice to all teams identifying six players we're willing to part with. One is gone [Buck Johnson was waived]. But we'd be willing to talk about almost anybody on the roster."
Opponent: Milwaukee Bucks
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Radio: WXZL (103.1 FM), WTEM (570 AM)
Tickets: Many remain
Outlook: The Bullets are looking to reach .500 for the first time since the fourth game of the 1991-92 season. F Tom Gugliotta leads the Bullets in both scoring and rebounding (17.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg), and F Don MacLean (16.2 ppg) could make his second straight start at small forward in place of Calbert Cheaney. After winning its season opener, Milwaukee has lost six straight to drop to last place in the Central Division. F Ken Norman leads the team in both scoring and rebounding (20.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg), but he's the only player on the team shooting better than 50 percent. Milwaukee is having problems on both ends of the court. Opponents are shooting 51.5 percent from the field against Milwaukee -- best in the NBA. Washington won last year's series against Milwaukee, 3-1.