Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin reported no progress yesterday with forward John Williams, still negotiating from Los Angeles for $276,000 withheld since July, despite hearing "rumors" that the forward is soon to return to Washington to continue rehabilitation for his injured knee.

Pollin said he hadn't spoken to Williams, though the team has had contact with him and his agent, Fred Slaughter, in the last week through team vice president Jerry Sachs. Pollin said he would like to talk to Williams "if he's prepared to talk to us" about returning. His failure to reach Williams is not deliberate on his part, he said, only that he wasn't there when Williams has spoken with Sachs.

"Unfortunately, it's a mystery to me why he isn't here," Pollin said in a telephone interview. "I haven't heard from him. Frankly, I was hoping he would show up and do the responsible thing. I had heard rumors that he would be coming in shortly, but you know how much a rumor is worth."

Sachs said today that his last conversation with Williams and Slaughter was last Friday. Sachs said he was under the impression that Williams would call back, but he hasn't.

"He sounded like he wanted to return," Sachs said. "I was quite optimistic -- in a constrained fashion -- that we'd hear something from him in a definite way. We're still waiting. . . . If it were the first time we've had this experience, I would {be disappointed}. But unfortunately, we're accustomed to it."

Slaughter did not return phone calls today.

Pollin reiterated that the team wasn't interested in keeping Williams's money, though he didn't confirm that the prompt return of the money was what was keeping Williams from coming back. Several sources said last week that was the issue keeping the sides apart, though Sachs declined to discuss the nature of the talks.

Pollin said there was no deadline by which Williams had to return. But he said he wouldn't allow it to go on indefinitely, acknowledging he was getting somewhat tired of the situation.

"There has to be a resolution to any problem," he said. "There has to be an end to it. Everybody wants to know if we'll be able to count on John this season or not. The longer he procrastinates, the longer we don't know. . . . I can't understand why he's not here. I have not run out of patience. My patience is wearing thinner and thinner, but I'm not out of patience."

Said Sachs: "John has to make up his mind that this is what he wants to do. He's got to come to that decision himself. An individual has got to take hold of his career and his life. It's frustrating. He needs to come to that conclusion."

Meanwhile, the first glimmer of life came from the team in Sunday's 97-96 loss to Indiana in Nova Scotia. The Bullets blew an 18-point third-quarter lead, but at least they had a second-half lead to blow, after never being in contention after halftime in their first three games. Harvey Grant started at small forward for Bernard King (sore back) and had the best game of anyone in preseason, hitting 10 of 11 shots and scoring 22 points in 22 minutes.

"We've been playing a lot of people other than our starters," Bullets General Manager John Nash said. "{Sunday} night we played really well. They played their key people and we were playing people we're trying to evaluate. I was most encouraged by the way our kids played. {Pacers Coach Dick} Versace was trying to win the game like it was the seventh game of the finals."

Chuck Person, LaSalle Thompson, Rik Smits and Reggie Miller each played at least 30 minutes Sunday, with Vern Fleming, Indiana's fifth starter, playing 24. Rookie center Greg Foster put in the most minutes for Washington with 29.

After three games in which the Bullets shot .371, ,354 and .455, Washington got above the 50 percent mark Sunday at .534. Foster again played solidly (12 points, six rebounds) and rookie guard A.J. English (six of 13, 12 points) was "more like he was supposed to be," Nash said.

Bullets Notes: Forward Ron Draper (American University) and guard Mike Morrison (Loyola of Baltimore and Northwestern High School) were cut yesterday, reducing the roster to 14, not including Williams.

The Bullets have heard from the Orlando Magic that point guard Scott Skiles is available. Nash said that Orlando "is talking to us" about the fifth-year pro, but that it's nothing serious. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the asking price for Skiles is a second-round pick. Washington already has Darrell Walker and Steve Colter at the point; it would be strange to take on Skiles's $400,000 salary just to have a third one.

"Scott Skiles looks like he's going to be the odd man out down there," Nash said. "Don't register anything into {the discussions} other than thoroughness on our part. There are lots of people that will be available when teams make cuts". . . .

Walker (tendinitis in both Achilles') returned to Emmitsburg, Md., for practice, after missing the trip to Canada. . . . Forward Pervis Ellison sprained his ankle in Sunday's loss.