Washington Bullets officials said yesterday that Bernard King's distress Sunday in Boston was an allergic reaction to a vitamin supplement, later identified as bee pollen by one of the physicians who administered to the all-star forward. The Bullets believe this was a one-time occurrence that will not keep King out of any further games.
Though he didn't practice at Bowie State University yesterday, it was because of a sprained pinky on his shooting hand and not anything having to do with the incident at Boston Garden. King had scored 20 points in 28 minutes when he took himself out of the Celtics game early in the third quarter and had symptoms including shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. Taken out on a stretcher to Massachusetts General Hospital, he was released after an hour and walked out on his own.
While the Bullets feel they have singled out the cause, they didn't want to talk specifics because of the inherent possibility of legal complications.
"The medical records from Massachusetts General are going to be sent" to Washington doctors Stephen Haas and Herbert Singer, General Manager John Nash said. "They'll review them and if they feel anything else is necessary they'll proceed. But I think they're pretty confident that it was that and nothing more than that."
King declined to speak with reporters yesterday.
William Mitchell, the Celtics' assistant physician, said there was some concern about King's condition when he was examined by Boston team physician Arnold Scheller, but that by the time King went to Massachusetts General, the major symptoms had abated somewhat.
"He was complaining about a queasy stomach and lightheadedness," Mitchell said. "He went to the hospital and the makeup there confirmed that he probably had an allergic reaction to bee pollen . . . and he was fine . . . he was stable. He apparently peaked in his allergic reaction at the Garden."
Nash said any possibility of heart problems had been ruled out. And Coach Wes Unseld was ready to put King back in his usual position for tonight's game at Philadelphia. The Bullets did not say when or how much bee pollen King ingested.
King's return brought a sigh of relief from the Bullets, who will sign CBA guard Clinton Smith to a 10-day contract today and put guard Haywoode Workman on the injured list. Workman will have to miss the next five games, which rules him out of Washington's three-game Texas trip next week after the all-star break.
The Bullets are so depleted that only five healthy bodies were available for practice yesterday. Smith couldn't practice because he hadn't yet taken his mandatory physical.
While the Bullets are confident that the cause of King's reaction has been identified, they will be on the lookout for any repeat.
"If the symptoms return, you've got to get serious in terms of identifying for certain," Nash said. "Some people are allergic to cats. If the symptoms were to recur we'd have to get more extensive in our search. I think that's what Dr. Haas and Dr. Singer want to do. They want to see what the Boston people were able to determine."
The standard physical each player must pass before being allowed to go to training camp touches briefly on known allergic reactions; that is, those allergies the player himself is aware of. There is not extensive testing done to find all manner of allergies because of the time needed to process blood tests for the myriad possible allergies.
"B's a pretty bright guy," Nash said, "and I think he's pretty comfortable with the medical information he's gotten at this stage."
"If they had allergies" discovered during the physical, Mitchell said, "and they were impaired by sinus problems or ear disorders, sore throats and the like, we would refer them to ear, nose and throat specialists, who would prescribe the applicable medication. The original physical would just be cursory."