Phil Chenier said yesterday that he is physically ready to rejoin the Bullets but it appears he probably will not be activated until late February, at the earliest.

Though Chenier has been practicing with the team for more than two weeks, the Bullets are not certain if his legs are strong enough yet to let him work at full strength. Chenier underwent back surgery in September.

Coach Dick Motta said yesterday Chenier realizes "we can not give him on-the-job training. He's been told that."

"I feel good and I'm anxious to get going," said Chenier, whose major concern has been conditioning, particularly getting his legs back into shape. "I'm getting antsy to start playing in games, but I figured that would happen.

"I haven't told the Bullets yet I'm ready.My attorney and I will have to meet with them this week or next week and see what their plans are for me.

"At this point, I don't know what they are thinking. I was aiming to get back by the All-Star Game (Sunday) but then maybe it won't be until afterwards. Everything teally is up to them. I have to wait and see."

"He's got to able to contribute before we can make a move," Motta said. "We've got to make sure he knows the offense and can hold up. Otherwise, the team would suffer and that's not fair to C.J. (Charles Johnson), Larry (Wright) or anyone else.

"I think Phil is coming along fine; he can shoot it up just like before. With the way the schedule is, I don't know when the best time to activate him would be."

Team officials are reluctant to activate Chenier during early February, when the Bullets are away from Capital Centre in the midst of an extended road trip.

They would prefer to give Chenier more time to get in better condition, so he would not be hurt by any extended stay on the bench.

Motta and General Manager Bob Ferry discussed the Chenier situation after Sunday's game against the New York Knicks but did not reach any conclusions.

"It was the first time we had tossed it around," said Motta after a practice yesterday for tonight's 8:05 game against Atlanta in Capital Centre. "But until Phil comes to us and let's us know he's ready, there isn't much we can do."

Ferry said that "the best thing that could happen for both Phillip and us right now is that he gets into the best condition of his life.

"Phil isn't going to play himself into shape through games. When he comes back, he has to be ready to go and to contribute."

Any roster move to make room for Chenier probably would involve rookies Roger Phegley or Dave Corzine, although the Bullets do not want to lose the rights to either one. A trade is a possibility until Feb. 15 but Ferry has been reluctant to do anything that would break up the title team's roster.

That is why the club is being so cautious about Chenier. His addition would strengthen the Bullets and would provide them with a muchneeded second big guard. But Bullet officials do not want any of the other four veteran guards looking over their shoulders at Chenier, not do they want to disrupt squad harmony.

Chenier is aware of this. He has said from the start of his comeback, "It won't be easy, I know, to fit right back in. I know everyone, but they won a title without me. I have to find where I belong now and what my role will be."

Kevin Grevey (hamstring), Mitch Kupchak (Achilles' tendon strain), Bob Dandridge (muscle pull) and Elvin Hayes (knee bruise) all missed yesterday's workout, but should play tonight.