EMMITSBURG, MD., OCT. 9 -- The first pick in the 1989 NBA draft is affectionately known as "Chicken Feet" by his Washington Bullets teammates. Look closely at Pervis Ellison's feet and it is apparent the toes do stick out like those on your basic farmyard resident.

Then look at the bandages around his two big toes. The nails on those two toes probably will have to come off. Then look at the blisters all over his feet, the ones that are so bad he has to have his shoes cut off after every workout.

"I'm looking at him coming out here and trying to play on some toes that are really bad," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "I'm seeing somebody who's willing to go through this when he's got a legitimate reason not to. That's a pretty good sign to me."

"He's playing with a great deal of pain," General Manager John Nash said. "He wants to play, wants to be a part of it."

These are the things the Bullets see in Pervis Ellison, the reason they felt they had to trade Jeff Malone to get him. They see a mobile, rangy 6-foot-9 player who is perfect for the passing game, who can change shots, who can establish offense from the low post.

There still are questions on why the Sacramento Kings gave up on Ellison so readily, trading him to the Bullets June 25 as part of a three-way deal with Utah that sent Jeff Malone to the Jazz. There have to be, because Ellison suffered through an injury-plagued rookie season in which he played in only 34 games.

But he will get every chance to prove himself here. The Bullets will not commit yet, but barring injury, pencil the Louisville all-American into the regular season starting lineup.

"If we get everybody back and we get everybody healthy, I think we'll be okay," Ellison said after practice today at Mount St. Mary's. "We had big-name players in Sacramento, but they didn't play together as a team. There was a lot of adversity going on. A lot of people said this, a lot of players said that."

There were great expectations. There was not much else going on with the Kings, who were perpetually sinking in a morass. But Bill Russell, then the general manager, surprised just about everyone by taking Ellison -- Ellison included.

"I just knew I was going to San Antonio," he said. "Coach {Larry} Brown had called me and said it. He said 'We've got you, and I want you to come to camp ready.' And it just caught me off guard. I didn't expect to go first, after I had gotten that phone call."

The Kings selected him after two perfunctory telephone discussions, without working him out. But Ellison never made it to camp. He had bone spurs removed from his right foot and ankle Sept. 29, 1989. Coming back from that in November, he developed tendinitis in his right big toe. That kept him out three more months.

By then, the season was lost, and Ellison already had heard sniping. There were claims he went home for Christmas, presumably to lounge around, while the Kings were in the midst of losing 10 straight.

His version: There was no place in Sacramento to do the work. He suggested to the Kings that, because he never went on the road anyway and the team was on a five-game road trip, he go back to Louisville to rehabilitate. He had had similar surgery after his freshman season there. But the papers said he had gone to his hometown of Savannah, Ga.

Ellison got back into the lineup Feb. 23, but by then, Russell had been fired and Coach Jerry Reynolds had been bumped upstairs. Dick Motta was in.

"It was something I wouldn't want to repeat," Ellison said. "When they announced my name, they would boo so loud. Not just, you know how you get a heckler, a couple of boos? It was the whole coliseum. Just, 'Booooo!' They used to introduce all the players, saying 'not dressing tonight.' They had to stop saying my name.

"But if I were a fan, I would do the same thing. They just wanted a winning team out there, and fans get frustrated . . . ."

Motta changed the offense from Reynolds's free-wheeling style to a forward-oriented attack, mirroring his teams in Chicago, Washington and Dallas. The Kings traded for Antoine Carr and promptly put him opposite Wayman Tisdale. Ellison rarely got to touch the ball.

"There were no offensive plays for me," he said. "When I did play forward it was just to give those guys a break. That was the only opportunity I got to even think about scoring. I would set maybe 40 screens a game. I knew it was going to be different. I can set screens, but 40?"

He ended the season averaging eight points a game, but was second on the team in blocked shots. He was ready to make another go of it with the Kings when he got traded.

Unseld had always liked Ellison. "Down the road, he had the potential of being a better player than anybody else out there," Unseld said. "He was unselfish in college. Defensively, he could do some things. He could be an all-around good player, like Danny Ferry."

This the Bullets could stand. Ellison possesses the all-around skills in a big man that would complement John Williams perfectly. And he is willing to help the feet of another Bullet, Darrell Walker, by getting in and rebounding.

"If you're going to win in this league, you don't want your playmaking guard to lead you in rebounding," Ellison said. "Even Magic doesn't do that, does he?"