Team captain John Havlicek was benched for a rookie and higher scorer Jo Jo White missed practice today as Boston Celtics, off to their most miserable start in history, groped for remedies to their losing ways.

The benching of Havlicek, sometimes known as "Mr. Basketball" in Boston, and the sudden disappearance of White came the day after the Celts lost, 129-114, to the San Antonio Spurs, leaving their season record at a very un-Celtic 1-8.

"We were absolutely lousy," complained Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn after the San Antonio game.

The club announced that Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell, a first-round draft pick this year from the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, would replace Havlicek at forward Friday night against the Buffalo Braces at Boston Garden.

Of White, an eight-year pro guard, voted most valuable player in the 1976 NBA playoffs, the team said only that he failed to show up for today's workouts.

"He wasn't at practice. We don't know where he is," a team spokesman said. Has he quit? "See if he shows up tomorrow night," said the spokesman.

White told the Boston Globe he will not suit up for the Celtics' Friday night game. "I have nothing to say right now.It all depends on what Tom Heinsohn and Red Auerbach do. It's a lot of things, but I'd rather not say anything now. I'd rather wait and talk to them."

White, the Celtics' leading scorer with more than 17 points a game this season, was one of several players to receive an angry tongue-lashing by club president Red Auerbach after the loss to San ANtonio.

Auerbach stormed into the Celts' dressing room and shouted, among other things, "If any of you guys don't feel like playing, you can pack your bags and get the hell out of here."

Havlicek, 37, needs only 13 points to become the NBA's third highest career scorer, eclipsing Jerry West. This season he is averaging 11.9 per contest.

In his 15-year pro career, all with Boston, he has scored more than 26,000 points.

He was unavailable for comment. A team spokesman said Heinsohn ordered Havlicek benched.

"He'll probably be the sixth man against Buffalo," the spokesman said.

"We've got to get mad. We've got to get fed up with the way we've been playing," complained Celtic center Dave Cowens.

The Celtics, so bad this year that the usually adoring hometown fans are actually booing in the Garden, notched their only victory against the Atlanta Hawks. With seven former all-stars on the team, the Celtics are tied for the worst record in basketball. The Spurs, whom the Celtics beat handily in six games last season, walked away from them Wednesday.

"We played awful," said Heinsohn. "There will probably be some surprises."

"The Celtics will bounce back," predicted Spurs' coach Doug Moe. "They've got too many good people not to. But it won't come until they get confidence in each other. Then they'll be tough."