The Washington Bullets released veteran guard Charles Johnson last night and have until 6 p.m. today to dispose of two more players to get down to the 11-man NBA player limit.

In another development, Coach Dick Motta announced that Kevin Grevey has won the starting big guard spot over Roger Phegley. But Grevey was kneed in the thigh in last night's practice by, ironically, Phegley, and is a questionalbe starter for Friday's opener against the Philadelphia 76ers at Capital Centre.

The Bullets were running a four-on-four drill early in practice at Fort Meade when Phegley set a pick on Grevey and Grevey, trying to fight through it, caught Phegley's kenne on this thigh, just above his left knee.

Grevey went to the dressing room and applied ice to his leg. He later was given medication and the leg was bandaged to try to control the swelling

After practice, Grevery still was in considerable pain and had difficulty walking, but said he hoped to be able to play Friday.

"If Kevin is okay, then I'll go with him," Motta said. "It just makes good sense to start him. We had to make one change in our staring lineup with Kevin Proter, so why change the stability any more than you have too?

"In the exhibitions when both Roger and Keving played, I think Kevin looked better," Motta added.

The release of the 6-foot Johnson did not come as a surprise. He had not played in two of the final three exhibition games and in the games he played, his court time was limited.

The Bullets had three 6-foot guards on their roster, Johnson, Porter and Larry Wright, and as Motta said, "You just can't keep three small guards." Both Porter and Wright have no-cut contracts and both are playmaking guards while Johnson was a shooting guard competing with Phegley, Grevey and Phil Chenier.

Johnson, one of the team's more popular players, was signed by the Bullets as a free agent in January 1978 and went on to average 10.2 points in the 1978 playoffs, the year the Bullets won the NBA title.

The 30-year-old, eight-year veteran played in all 82 regular-season games last year. He led the Bullets in steals with 95 and in free throw percentage shooting 84.8 percent.

Rookie Steve Malovic has a sprained ankle and probably will be put on the injured list, along with Mitch Kupchak, to start the season. That means the Bullets will still have one player too many. The only newcomers still on the roster are free agent guard Gus Bailey and rookie Garcia Hopkins.

Phegley, who has run with the first unit since the first day of training camp said, "Starting to me doesn't mean that much right now.

"Being a starter was above and beyond what I had ever expected in my second year. I didn't expect to come here and turn things around. He (Motta) didn't make me any promises when he put me on the first unit when camp started. I am right on schedule for what I hoped to accomplish by now.

"To me, basically it's all basketball, whether you're a guard or a forward."

Motta said he still had plans for the 6-7 Phegley. "I look at Roger now as a forward-guard swing man," Motta said. "He played very well at forward against Philadelphia in the last preseason game."

Grevey was a free agent, having played out his option with the Bullets last year and he didn't re-sign until training camp was three day old. He was slowed somewhat with a pulled groin muscle, but showed to be a little steadier than Pheglye. Grevey's experience was a factor in Motta's decision.

"It's so early in the season that it doesn't matter who starts now anyway," Grevey said. "We just want to establish that we have seven, eight, nine guys we can depend on and who can start at any time. Early in the season is when you can experiment and start different combinations. And just because I'm the starter now doesn't mean anything. Your reserves are just as important as your starter."

Center Wes Unseld missed yesterday's practice. He was in New York taking part in contract negotiations between the club owners and the NBA Players' Association.