Pervis Ellison has left questions unanswered before, so maybe this one shouldn't be asked. But the temptation is too great. He is fit. He is active. He appears to have re-established his health.

Can Ellison do the same with his game?

Ellison's new employers, the Washington Bullets, will find out sometime this fall. But for the summer, the Bullets' priorities with the second-year forward-center are different. The Bullets simply want Ellison -- whom they acquired last month from the Sacramento Kings -- to build up his body, to add pounds so he will be in better position to score points in November.

"Right now, I'm not interested in his skill level," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "I think it's still a little early. We're just delighted that he's decided that this is what he's got to do. I'm glad to see he's going about it right from the start."

In the general calm of a secluded weight room at Bowie State University, Ellison toils daily to add muscle to his physique while strengthening his once-ailing body parts -- his right foot, from which bone spurs were removed in September, and its big toe, afflicted with tendinitis just months after surgery -- that kept him out of 48 games last season.

That Ellison, 23, recently became the first overall No. 1 selection in NBA history to be dealt after one season has done little to shake his confidence. Acquired June 25 in a high-profile, three-team deal that landed two-time all-star and seven-year Washington veteran Jeff Malone in Utah, Ellison appears committed to using the offseason to add to his 6-foot-10, 217-pound frame.

"Any time you go into a new situation, there's going to be some adjustment," Ellison said last week after a two-hour session with Bullets strength coach Dennis Householder, one of five daily workouts Ellison is scheduled to undergo each week until training camp starts in October.

"I've got confidence in myself. I just have to re-establish {my game}. I've got nothing to prove to myself."

To the Bullets, though, he still has to prove he can succeed in this league. Predicted for greatness as early as 1986 -- when, as a freshman, he pounded Duke for 25 points and 11 rebounds in leading Louisville to victory in the NCAA finals -- he since has become a target for criticism, despite ending his college career as the only Louisville player to amass 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Ellison wasn't a prolific scorer in college, yet proved to be a solid defender and capable rebounder. As a junior, he was the only player in the nation to total more than 100 rebounds, blocked shots and assists. But he never averaged more than 17 points a game, making him somewhat of a surprise No. 1 selection in last summer's draft.

Much more surprising was the trade. He figured to be in a Kings uniform for several years, arguably the most valuable building block in that team's future. Then the deal unfolded, prompting many observers to openly question Sacramento's motives for parting with Ellison so quickly.

"When it first happened, to be honest, I was a little shocked," Ellison said. "I wasn't aware that my name was being brought up in trade talks. I thought I'd be there at least next season."

He had no reason to think otherwise. Once labeled "the right guy for the franchise for the next decade" by Sacramento's then-coach and current player personnel director, Jerry Reynolds, Ellison was given little time to prove himself with the struggling Kings -- he appeared in only 34 games because of chronic pain in his right foot.

Ellison was a Bill Russell favorite; it was Russell, the Boston Celtics legend, who wanted Sacramento to choose Ellison with the top pick. But when Russell was fired as general manager during the season, the rookie center lost his status as the organization's top priority. "We would really have liked to see more from Pervis," Reynolds said after the trade was announced. " . . . Obviously, if you're totally satisfied with someone, you don't trade him."

Even when healthy, Ellison didn't seem to click with the Kings, as the mid-season appointment of Dick Motta as Sacramento coach was accompanied by a change in offensive philosophy. Gone were the freestyle sets favored by Reynolds, replaced by Motta's forward-on-both-sides attack which now features Wayman Tisdale and Antoine Carr.

Although Ellison posted some solid games under Motta -- he averaged eight points and five rebounds in 21 games after moving to the starting lineup in March -- he didn't fit the physical mold Motta prefers from his centers and thus became expendable.

"The coaching change didn't affect me," Ellison said. "In the last 15 games last year, I thought I played pretty well. I wouldn't say I'm too far behind the other people in my class.

"{At Sacramento}, I didn't really get to utilize the things I do well. In the motion offense here, I will be able to utilize them more."

Said Bullets assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik, who supervises Ellison's post-workout shooting drills at Bowie State: "Pervis is not going to overpower people in the post, like maybe Patrick Ewing can. He doesn't have that kind of strength and weight. But Pervis's strength will be in his mobility, his quickness and his range. It will be tough for people to guard him."

While Ellison may not to be too far behind Cleveland's Danny Ferry, San Antonio's Sean Elliott, Miami's Glen Rice, Charlotte's J.R. Reid and Chicago's Stacey King, his niche with the Bullets won't be determined until the fall. Should John Williams recover from last year's serious knee injury, Ellison, projected out of college as a power forward, could be cast as Washington's center, with Williams and Bernard King at the other front-court spots.

And to play in the middle, Ellison surely will have to add muscle to his wispy frame.

"Pervis will get stronger," Householder said. "He's {already} stronger than I was led to believe and his work habits in the gym are better than I thought. He's coming in and doing his job, pushing himself as far as he can go."

Ellison started working with Householder after participating in a rookie tournament in Detroit with players from the Bullets' recent rookie/free agent camp. Although he played sparingly, Ellison -- who scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 23 minutes in a victory over Indiana -- said he enjoyed getting back on the court.

"I'm looking forward to playing the game itself," he said. Next season is "definitely going to be a learning experience. For most players, it takes two or three years to get established. It's part of an adjustment I'm still going through."