The Philadelphia 76ers, making a move ere the speeding Bullets drive out of sight, swung a trade yesterday that brings Eric Money across the Delaware to make the plays in the Spectrum.

Harvey Catchings, the third-string center; Ralph Simpson, the old ABA big shot who was only fourth Sixer guard, and future considerations go to the New Jersey Nets for Money and sub guard Al Skinner.

Money averaged 16.6 points, five assists a game for the Nets and qualifies as Philly's hope to help close an Atlantic Division gap of 5 1/2 games behind Washington -- which gets an early look at the new-look Sixers, up their way, on Sunday. Money is also the four-year Piston traded last offseason by Detroit for Kevin Porter -- and wouldn't it have been nice for Pistan fans in Pontiac and Coach Dick Motta's East All-Stars to have had K.P., the former Bullet who, as usual, leads the league in assists, directing traffic from the point last Sunday?

The Boston Celtics don't want him, any other NBA club can have him for $1,000 (plus fat salary), he's too independent for them -- Marvin Barnes, put on waivers yesterday. The enigmatic, frequently AWOL forward was expected to find stability this season after getting married last summer and, at his own urging, having his contract rewritten in the club's favor to give him incentive, but it never happened. Says Celt President Red Auerbach: "Barnes has failed to live up to his contractual obligations... hasn't contributed competitively... has not maintained himself in first-class condition to play and has materially breached his contract?...

The 6-9 collegian the Celts envision doing for them next year what 6-9 ex-convict Barnes didn't, meanwhile keeps building a bigcontract case: Larry Bird's 33 points for unbeaten Indiana State against Drake Tuesday night moved him into 10th place among all-time NCAA major-college scorers -- passing Elgin Baylor and Bill Bradley in one swoop. With 2,513 career, Bird is within 25 of Frank Selvy, 35 of Calvin Murphy, 47 of Austin Carr, 74 of Dickie Hemric. To eclipse Elvin Hayes and Oscar Robertson for third place (Pete Maravich and Freeman Williams out of reach), Bird needs only to lead his Sycamores to the NCAA finals, giving him 13 more games in which to average 35.4 points -- or score even more in fewer outings.

Kelly Kent, 21, of Cisco, Tex., Abilene Christian's star fullback as the school won the 1977 NAIA football championship, died yesterday of a heart attack; after an intramural basketball game. He rushed 1,184 yards, 16 TDs in '77, gained 743 more yards last season despite shoulder hurts; recently qualified for four events at an upcoming regional track meet; was 3.42 academically...

Allen Harvin, who set the U. of Cincinnati single-season rushing record of 1,283 yards last fall as a freshman, is accused with a teammate of receiving a $500 stereo receiver stolen from a campus dormitory, also last fall. Bad year for the Bearcats: basketball program put on probation, two hoop players booted for allegedly rifling a St. Louis hotel gift shop, and what-not. Oh for the days of Big O and Brig O!

Wayne Yates directed Memphis State to 20-7, 21-9, 20-9 and 19-9 basketball campaigns after moving up to succeed boss Gene Bartow. But the Tigers have fallen on such hard times -- 11-11, plagued by injuries and suspensions -- that the 6-foot-8 Yates, once a Memphis State player himself, moved last week into the athletic dormitory to try to build better rapport with his players. Alas, the student/alumni drumbeat of criticism didn't let up and Yates said yesterday they can give the job to somebody else the end of the season...

Out in Malibu, Calif., even though things are going well (7-1 in the WCAC, 17-6 overall) in his 11th season making Waves winners, Pepperdine Coach Gary Colson says he, too, is quitting after the season -- or the NCAA tournament.

Tim O'Hare, Maryland's graduating quarterback majoring in drama, switches from Sun Bowl to footlights: appears starting tonight in the University Theatre production of William Wycherley's "The Country Wife" at Tawes Theater on the College Park campus...

The Naval Academy athletic fund, it develops, came out of the Holiday Bowl triumph in San Diego with $217,000 (soundly beating the $150,000 guarantee). Succeeding cocaptains Phil McConkey and Nick Mygas in an effort to lead the '79 Mids to gold and glory: fullback Larry Klawinski of Bay City, Mich., and linebacker Tom Paulk from Sarasota, Fla.