He arrived in Washington in a helicopter that landed in the Capital Centre parking lot. He will leave this summer with a fishing pole in his hand, so he can go after trout in Canada.

One day, Charles (C.J.) Johnson would open a French restaurant, not because he can cook but because he enjoys eating French food.

He's into music and books and a philosphy of love and peace. He has also turned out to be the best midseason free agent signed in the NBA this year.

With all his talents, the real plus for Johnson, as far as the Bullets are concerned, is his experience. And not just on the basketball courts. He has been around long enough and has seen enough of life to bring a calming influence to the team something the club has needed at time's late this season.

It also helps that he is one of the league's best streak shooters and, despite his small 6-0 stature, he is a durable and tough defender. In 39 games, he has become a favorite of Coach Dick Motta and one of the Bullets' most important men entering the playoffs tonight.

He's coming off a career-high 29-point performance in the season finale against Philadelphia, in which he scored many of the key fourth-period baskets. That output was the climax of a series of efforts in which he has emerged as Motta's backcourt fireman, ready to light a scoring fuse coming off the bench.

He also loves to play under pressure, an asset for a playoff-team member. "I want the ball down the stretch," he said "Being a hero or a goat doesn't bother me. That's important in wars, but this isn't a war. Its' entertainment. I won't die if I miss.

"Pressure is the ultimate in basketball. Look at all the strategy at the end of games. There is an infinite amount and I love dealing with infinity. I look at the pressure moments as a job to be done. I'm here to win games. That's why they are paying me."

The word around the NBA has been that Johnson had lost a step while playing with the Golden State Warriors. But Motta doesn't feel his 29-year-old guard has shown any signs of slowing up.

"He's so smart out there that he does the little things that make big things happen," said Motta. "We want Kevin (Grevey) to watch hims because he can pick up so much by the way Charlie plays defense and uses picks off offense."

Johnson left Golden State because of numbers. The Warriors had too many small guards and one had to go. But he says the fact he was cut 32 games into the season so that a seventh-round pick, Ricky Marsh, could be kept didn't surprise him.

"This is a business and I've learned to accept business decisions," he said. "Life is so spontaneous that you can't brood about what happens to you. That's what I like, though. I try to live spontaneously.

"I don't carry grudges. When I came here, I didn't think I had any thing to prove. I knew I was a basketball player. That's enough."

Indeed, Johnson hesitated to return to basketball in January when the Bullets asked him to take Phil Chenier's place on the roster. He was doing music promotion on the West Coast and he wasn't sure if he wanted to retun to the sports grind.

"My dealings in music were giving me an exciting life style, just like in the NBA," he said, "and I was free for the first time in years from the routine of basketball. I didn't know if I wanted to become heavily involved in it again.

"BasketbalI always has been just a segment of my life. I hadn't sought it out and I wasn't dying without it. I finally came here because of the change. This was a different area than the West Coast and I thought it would broaden my life. It has and I've enjoyed it."

When Johnson graduated from the University of California, he almost ruled out a career in pro basketball.

He attended the Warriors' rookie camp for a few years, then went to Mexico for a year of study. The next season, he decided to play on a year-to-year basis. That was in 1972.

Now he's involved in a playoff series for a team that was just another NBA foe when the season began in October. And no Bullet is more excited about these next few games than Johnson.

"This is what you play 82 regular season games for," he said. "This is when everything is decided - when teams make money through big crowds, when next year's personnel is determined, when you go after the title.

"If you can't get keyed up for these games, you never will. The important thing is, not to let the excitement take you out of your game."

And for Johnson, his game includes much more than shooting. He is, he says a well-rounded player. "If I was just a shooter or just a defender, why keep all the statistics on me.

"I feel I can contribute in a lot of ways. I know I was a good player when I came here and I am a better one now. If you don't improve with experience, you should get out.

"Once you establish yourself to the point where others in the league know you can play, it becames 85 to 90 percent mental. You have to know when to do things and how. The physical aspect is overrated."

That's why he feels he can survive in this league of giants. He has brains and he knows how to use them. And he's applying some of that thinking power to those playoff games.

"I've been through playoffs and I know how to react," he said. "You've got to be consistent, that's very important. I'll contribute if I can come in and shoot well and not hit a cold streak. That's how I can help this team."

And when the playoffs are over?

"I'll get in my car and go after those trout. Why? Because you have to work to catch them. And I like challenges."