General Manager Bob Ferry said yesterday the Bullets are interested in acquiring free-agent guard Gus Williams and that he has talked to Williams' agent, Howard Slusher, about how much money it would take to sign him.
"I talked to Slusher just to get a feel for the situation," Ferry said. "We'd heard so many different things, I wanted to find out for sure what was going on.
"We really like Gus as a player. He's a quality player and we certainly would be interested in him if we could get him . . . but not interested enough yet to contact Seattle about what compensation they'd want.
"In addition to the compensation you'd have to pay, Gus wants an awful lot of money."
Williams earned $175,000 last season, the last on his contract with the SuperSonics. Seattle has rejected a five-year, $3.25-million proposal from Slusher and a $700,000 one-year proposal. Talks there are stalemated.
If the Bullets sign Williams, they would have to compensate the Sonics with players, draft choices, cash or possibly all three. But Williams' salary demands may well be the major hangup.
Owner Abe Pollin is a firm believer in a controlled salary structure. Signing Williams would tumble that structure, since Elvin Hayes reportedly is the highest-paid Bullet now, earning about $400,000 a year.
Williams, 27, is 6 feet 2 and the older brother of the New York Knicks' Ray Williams. Gus Williams averaged 22.1 points and shot 48 percent last season -- he has averaged 23.7 points and shot 51 percent in 15 playoff games -- and was fourth in the league in steals with 2.44 a game.
Williams, who couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, has said he wants to remain in Seattle. But if a contract can't be worked out, he also has said, he would play elsewhere. Washington, 2-7 and last in the Atlantic Division going into tonight's game against the New Jersey Nets at Rutgers, is one of the teams on his shopping list.
Slusher said he considers the Bullets one of the teams with "a lot of interest" in Williams.
Ferry said he is doing a lot more searching for players now than he usually does at this time of the season. If the right deal comes along the Bullets will make it, he said, but he would not say what constituted the right deal.
"In past years you were reluctant to make some deals because you didn't want to mess with the chemistry of your team," Ferry said. "But now that our chemistry isn't working all that well we're more apt not to worry about chemistry as much. I'm looking to improve my team and I'm looking at my options."
The Bullets' options are limited. Most conversations about trades center around Mitch Kupchak and Greg Ballard, two players the Bullets would not have given up a couple of years ago. They no longer are considered untouchables.
Rookies Wes Matthews and Rick Mahorn also are marketable, but won't fetch the talent the Bullets need to significantly improve.
The Bullets' most attractive asset could be their first-round pick in the next draft. If the season ended today, that choice would be the third or fourth from the top.
With such players as Maryland's Albert King and possibly Virginia's Ralph Sampson available next season, the Bullets must consider whether they want to save that draft choice or risk losing it as compensation for signing a free agent such as Williams.