Joe Pace's inconsistent play, Wes Unseld's possible retirement and Mitch Kupchak's projected future as a forward are reasons to make the Bullets' need for another big man a major priority.

The situation in the front court is complex. Unseld is on a one-year contract and at the end of the season he could retire, sign for another year or go to another team as a free agent. If he stays, he will be in the lineup because he won't come back without assurances he'll be given substantial playing time. If he doesn't return, the club has a spot to fill.

Kupchak is a natural choice as the new starting center. Coach Dick Motta thinks he would make a-better big forward, but as long as Elvin Hayes is a Bullet, that position is taken.

Hayes will be 33 next year but even this remarkable athlete can't have many more productive years. So the Bullets would like to start developing a young player who would be the center when Kupchak moves over to replace Hayes.

The Bullets were hoping Pace would be their center of the future, but the former Towson State star spends more time in playing. Most are convinced he has the talent to play in the questionable. And his contract ends after this season.

At least one quality center, Seattle's Marvin Webster, may become a free agent after his contract expires this season.

Webster enjoys Seattle and feels he owes the Sonics for giving him a chance to play this season. A bundle of Abe Pollin's money might change his mind.

Webster has shown this year that he can play center in the NBA. He's fifth in rebounding and ranks with Darryl Dawkins as the best shot blocker among the young centers. By leading the Sonics in minutes played, he has proven his durability, the main rap against him since he suffered hepatitis while at Denver.

Depending on how Phil Chenler recovers from his back problems, the Bullets also might have to go after another big guard to alternate with Kevin Grevey. But to outstanding big guard presently has been identified as a potential free agent.

Besides Webster and David Thompson, other potential fee agents include San Antonio's center Bill Paultz and guard Mike Gale, Cleveland forward Campy Russell, Golden State forward Rick Barry, Kansas City forward Scott Wedman, Indiana forward Dan Roundfield, Boston forward Kermit Washington, Houston forward Kevin Kunnert, and New York Knick guard Earl Monroe and forward Jim McMillian.

Jim Karvellas, who bows out this month as sportcaster at WTTG-TV-5, has signed a contract with CBS to do NBA games. Although Karvellas also is under contract with the Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, his first love remains basketball . . . Contracts between the Bullets and Caps and WTOP radio expire this season. Look for another station to pick up at least one of the clubs next year . . . The Bullets and WDCA-TV-20 broke off negotiations at one point late last summer before agreeing to a TV contract.But the Bullets' lack of leverage in the local TV market is one reason only 15 games are being telecast this year.

The Bullets' game against San Antonio March 11 will be shown on WDCA-TV-20 as a replacement for the Jan. 27 Chicago game that was snowed out.

Cleveland's Austin Carr has been nominated with Bob Lenier and Calvin Murphy for the Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writer's Association to a deserving NBA player, coach or assistant coach for his participation in community affairs.

Carr has established a scholarship fund at Gilmour Academy, a small parochial school in Gates Mill, Ohio. The annual scholarship is given to a needy student, not necessarily an athlete.

Milwaukee's Alex English is planning to run an art festival in Columbia, S.C., this summer. He sponsored a festival two years ago and made $400 for a local recreation center.

English is a writer and artist whose 150-poem collection titled "Some Timey Feelins Sometime" is expected to be published shortly.

John Y. Brown's wheeling and dealing has left him with an amazing collection of talent at Buffalo. When Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons wants to put in a second team, he must choose among Mike Glenn, Byrd Averitt, Bill Willoughby, Scott Lloyd, Larry McNeill and Wil Jones. In contrast, the New Jersey Net's recent acquisitions, particularly John Williamson, have made them stronger.