EMMITSBURG, MD., OCT. 12 -- The Washington Bullets begin sifting through the sheet music of their 1990-91 season Saturday when they play the New Jersey Nets in their exhibition opener. But it's an unfinished piece that will debut in New Haven, Conn., with John Williams still unavailable and Ledell Eackles still unsigned.

Williams is somewhere on the planet, but not in Washington, where the Bullets need him to appear so he can take a physical. It has cast a shadow over training camp but the Bullets' hands are tied until Williams decides to make an appearance.

That has given more guys a chance to play, but that's not what the Bullets had in mind. They were hoping Williams would at least be in the fold, if not playing, and on his way back.

"I don't know if it's going to be resolved," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "It's not like, 'If that's going to be resolved, when is it going to be resolved?' I don't know if it's going to be resolved."

The Bullets were doubting that Williams would be back by now, anyway. Injuries, such as the one to his knee, usually take at least a year to recover from, and recovery dates keep getting pushed back with every day he's not here.

Eackles, however, was supposed to be in camp to try to replace Jeff Malone's scoring touch. A contract squabble has changed that, along with concerns about Eackles' conditioning.

It's even more important because Washington wants to run at every opportunity this season. When you don't know where your points are coming from, this is one of the best ways to get easy baskets.

"He's going to have to acclimate himself to what we're doing," forward Bernard King said. "That's going to take a little time but with his skill level, when and if he arrives I don't think that's going to be a problem."

The Bullets will probably start Steve Colter in the back court with Darrell Walker. Up front, Charles Jones will be flanked by King and either Harvey Grant or Mark Alarie.

"I would start the veterans," Unseld said. "And when I say veterans, I mean my veterans."

That means Pervis Ellison will get a good long look. In the back court, a logjam of people who would like to replace Eackles -- rookie A.J. English, Mike Morrison, Larry Robinson, Tony Harris -- will be looked at extensively both Saturday and Sunday in Richmond, when the Bullets play the Clippers.

"Coach Wes wants guys who are going to contribute," Robinson said, "not be Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, just be a guy that follows instructions and gets along with everybody."

Unseld didn't have a time frame for making the next round of cuts -- there are still 17 players in camp -- but he probably will have to make a decision between Robinson, Morrison and Harris soon after the team returns from Tuesday's exhibition in Iowa City against the Bulls.

Ellison has been impressive in the early going, showing quickness at both ends of the floor. It's possible Unseld could pair Ellison with Jones, or be part of a quicker offensive lineup with Grant. Defensively, he's blocked 12 shots in two scrimmages.

In half-court sets, Ellison has gotten the ball in good spots and shown an ability to score with either hand. He was just four of 14 in Thursday's scrimmage, but that was after a 10-of-12 performance in Wednesday's scrimmage.

"We do constant movement here," he said. "I don't just want to be down on the post with some 260-pound guy that's pounding me all night in my back, and try to post him up. {Unseld} looks at the makeup of this ballclub and we don't have big bruisers. So we want to use our quickness."

But King is and may always be Washington's best scoring option this season. The veteran is coming off a 22.4 points-per-game average last season and clearly is in the best shape of anyone in camp.

"I try to get my timing down and start trying to piece my game together," King said of preseason. "Primarily, what I'm looking to work on is my conditioning, getting out on the break, reading where my teammates are as I cut toward the hoop. The most important thing for us is getting our passing game down. We're looking to push the ball more this year."

Grant has been one of the best players in camp thus far. Washington is looking for the third-year player to take the next step up. Tom Hammonds has to come on this season and show he's an ample backup.

English has been bothered by a sore knee, and hasn't shot the ball very well in the first 10 days of camp. He was just seven of 18 in the Red-Blue scrimmage Thursday night.

The other draft choice, Greg Foster, has had a slow beginning, though he's looked better in the last few days. Free agents Ron Draper and Sam Jefferson are fighting for the spot that may be available with Williams's absence.

"I want to get a feel with the pro game," English said, "and see how I fare. I want to do well, I want to go out there and learn . . . when I start to get fatigued the knee gets sore a little. When I'm fresh and we don't stop practice {to talk} I'm all right."

Bullets Notes: A league source said it's likely Williams will be able to earn back most of the money he hasn't been paid since mid-July. He's lost more than $275,000 since the Bullets suspended his pay for failure to rehabilitate his knee.