When New Jersey Nets forward Buck Williams sat out his team's 104-98 victory over San Antonio on Tuesday because of a severely sprained ankle, it was the first time the former Maryland star has missed a game because of injury in his six-plus season career.

Williams did miss a contest during the 1983-84 season on suspension for an altercation with 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward Lonnie Shelton of Cleveland. The fight was just one of many tussles between the two men, this one starting, Williams recalled, after he pushed Shelton to the floor.

"He got up and started coming at me. It was like a bull in a china shop," Williams said. "I remember I hit him and stepped back, but he kept coming. I hit him and stepped back again, hoping that somebody would come between us and break it up but nobody did. So I kept doing it; hitting him and stepping back. The next thing I knew, I'd run out of court. I slipped and fell and then it was like this big cloud fell right on top of me."

It's a bit ironic New Jersey won without Williams, who is easily the hardest worker on the team and perhaps in the entire NBA. Many observers have felt Williams has been wasted in New Jersey and that playing on another team would provide him with true superstardom, but he feels that other things may be more important.

"I look at Larry Doby {the Nets' community relations director and, 40 years ago, the first black to play baseball in the American League} and think about all the adversity that he went through and I think to myself, 'How can I complain?' " Williams said.

"I get to stay in the fine hotels, I'm paid extremely well to play . . . I'm happy. I've never asked to be traded; if they do that it will be on their own. All I can do is go out and play hard and hope that I don't live to regret it."

Educational Television

Watching Washington Bullets center Manute Bol block a shot by Boston's rookie center Mark Acres on Tuesday night reminded guard Darrell Walker of his first season in the league when, as a member of the New York Knicks, he tried to shoot over Atlanta's Tree Rollins.

"I kept driving to the basket against him and he kept blocking it, kept blocking it," Walker recalled. "One timeout, I walked past him and he said 'You must not get cable, do you?' I didn't understand what he meant and asked him what he said. He said, 'You must not get cable, because if you did, you would have seen me play and you'd know better than to do what you're trying to do.' " . . .

After making the Western Conference semifinals last season, but faltering this season, the Golden State Warriors think they've made the move that will correct their misfortunes: acquiring center Ralph Sampson from the Houston Rockets.

Before the trade, Los Angeles Lakers Coach Pat Riley wondered why Golden State had made some previous moves.

"There's a team . . . you could just see them thinking, 'We'll get rid of these old guys (former Bullet forward Greg Ballard, who's playing in Europe, and guard Purvis Short, traded to Houston) and add these young guys and we'll be better,' " Riley said shortly before the Warriors got Sampson. "But it doesn't work that way. With those guys, I thought they had the most dangerous perimeter shooting team in the league. Now they're not as good at it as they used to be."

There's No Escaping It

It looks as if parity is starting to rear its ugly head in the NBA, especially in the Central and Midwest divisions. Entering Wednesday night's games, five of the six teams in each of those divisions had records of .500 or better. In the Pacific, it's taken a late surge by the Lakers to move them past Portland and back into first place; Seattle, which many believe is the team to beat, is struggling at one game under .500.

"Man, this league is tough," said SuperSonics Coach Bernie Bickerstaff. "L.A. and Boston are still the elite, but it's not so obvious anymore. They're certainly not locks {to make the finals}. There're plenty of teams who could take them out."

"I've never seen the league so evenly balanced," said Bucky Buckwalter, Portland's vice president of basketball operations. "Any of the good teams can be beaten by a team that's rebuilding or up-and-coming."