The Washington Bullets re-signed all-star forward Juwan Howard yesterday to a multiyear contract that sources said will pay him at least as much as the seven-year, $100.8 million contract he signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat last month.

However, it remained unclear last night whether Howard will be playing the 1996-97 National Basketball Association season for the Bullets or the Heat.

"The agreement with Howard will not be fully effective until certain legal issues regarding the arrangement between Howard and the Miami Heat have been resolved," Bullets legal counsel David Osnos said, according to a statement released by the club.

Asked whether Howard would prefer to play for the Bullets or the Heat, Curtis Polk, president of the firm that represents him, said: "We have no comment. He has been advised by us he should make no comment until the legal issues between the Heat and the NBA are resolved. I'm not going to make any comments about which scenario he likes better."

A spokesman for the Heat had no immediate comment.

"This isn't a resolution at all," said one of the persons involved in the complex negotiations surrounding the case, explaining why all sides are reluctant to discuss publicly the issues.

After playing his first two NBA seasons with the Bullets, Howard became a free agent last month and signed with the Heat. Last Wednesday, the NBA rejected the contract. The league said the Heat had exceeded the league's ceiling on team player payrolls, known as the salary cap, by agreeing to pay Howard $9 million this season. Teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap, which will be at least $24.3 million per team this season, to re-sign their own players. They are not allowed to exceed the salary cap to sign players from other teams.

The Heat and the National Basketball Players Association -- the league's players' union -- disagreed with the league's rejection of Howard's contract. The matter is scheduled to be resolved by two arbitrators. The sides hope to name the arbitrators this week and convene a hearing by Aug. 15.

Last Thursday, though, the NBA declared Howard a free agent, allowing him to sign immediately with any of the league's 29 teams. That prompted the Heat to go to Florida state court Friday, and Dade County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farina granted the club a temporary injunction. The order states that unless the dispute over the validity of the Heat's contract with Howard is resolved, Howard cannot sign with another team -- and the NBA cannot approve such a contract -- unless the contract recognizes "the prior validity and superiority" of the Heat's deal with Howard.

Howard's contract with the Bullets complies with the court order, Polk said. Lawyers for the NBA, however, filed documents to have the case moved to federal court in Miami yesterday in an attempt to have that order lifted.

After Howard agreed to terms with the Heat, the league's collective bargaining agreement required the Bullets to renounce their rights to Howard in order to acquire other players while remaining under the salary cap. The Bullets did so.

They subsequently obtained Rod Strickland, one of the NBA's better point guards, and forward Harvey Grant from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for forward Rasheed Wallace and guard-forward Mitchell Butler. They also signed free agents Tracy Murray and Lorenzo Williams from the Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks, respectively, and re-signed free agent guard Chris Whitney. Those players joined a roster that still included star forward Chris Webber, starting guard Calbert Cheaney and promising 7-foot-7 center Gheorghe Muresan.

However, the Bullets' renouncement of Howard meant they could not re-sign him until the 57th day of the regular season and could not exceed the salary cap to re-sign Howard unless the league granted the Bullets a waiver.

The waiver was granted yesterday after officials for the league and the union signed an agreement setting the conditions under which Howard could re-sign with the Bullets.

Should Howard end up with the Bullets, the team will have to surrender its 1997 first-round draft pick in return, since NBA Commissioner David Stern ruled yesterday that "intervening player transactions could not be undone," according to a statement released by the league. The Bullets, therefore, would be allowed to keep the other players they have under contract, including those they have acquired since Howard agreed to terms with the Heat.

"Over the last several days, we have been assessing various options with Juwan," Polk said. "It was not until we were notified of the NBA's decision to restore {the Bullets' ability to exceed the salary cap to re-sign Howard} that Washington was a real option. Upon being informed of the league's decision, I quickly met with {Bullets General Manager} Wes Unseld and was quickly able to reach an agreement. Juwan thereafter selected the Bullets as his option." CAPTION: Two arbitrators will help decide what team Juwan Howard goes to. CAPTION: Juwan Howard, guarded by Bulls' Dennis Rodman, right, is a once and perhaps future Bullet after re-signing for at least seven years, $100.8 million.