Washington Bullet forward Bob Dandridge returned to practice yesterday and Coach Dick Motta said he will start in tonight's game against the Detroit Pistons at the Silverdome.

Dandridge, sidelined since Oct. 13 because of a strained ligament in his left foot, zipped through a 90-minute workout at Bowie State.

"There is still some stiffness, but it seems to be in pretty good shape," Dandridge said. "I'll try and play the next two games and then see how it feels."

Dandridge caused a stir last Thursday when he remained home and treated his injury himself, instead of reporting to practice and being treated there. The Bullets, at the time, said they didn't know where Dandridge was or why he missed the practice. The sides got together later and termed it "a mixup."

It is now an understood policy that an injured Bullet must report for treatment when and where trainer John Lally, Dr. Stan Lavine or other Bullet medical personnel say he should. Missing a treatment will be just as severe an offense as missing practice, and result in a $50 fine.

After tonight's game in Pontiac, the Bullets will travel to Indianapolis to face the Pacers in an 8 p.m. Friday game that will be televised.

Dandridge looked as if he had never been away yesterday as he ran hard and blended with the first team.

"I was just trying to run and test my conditioning without aggravating my ankle again," Dandridge said. "Just walking before would cause pain because the injury is to the ligament that's right on the bottom of the foot. It's just a time-healing process and it feels much better now than it did, because I was able to rest it. And now I'm just glad to be back."

Dandridge also said he met with Bullet owner Abe Pollin Monday about his contract situation. Dandridge is unhappy with the contract, which reportedly has one year remaining at $250,000 a year, plus an option year.

The Bullets have refused to renegotiate the contract, but they and Dandridge are trying to agree on some sort of increased compensation. Yesterday's meeting between Dandridge and the club was the latest in a long series and Dandridge said: "We just talked about some things and everything is going fine."

Dandridge missed four games with his foot injury and Greg Ballard, who has a sore ankle, started in his place Ballard is averaging 10 points a game.

Dandridge's injury also opened the door for Roger Phegley to show what he could do as a small forward. Phegley, who played only four scoreless minutes as a guard in the first game of the season, when Dandridge was healthy, has averaged 15.6 points a game as Ballard's backup. Phegley is the Bullets' second-leading scorer and has the team's single-game high of 35 points.

Starting guard Kevin Grevey, who pulled a hamstring muscle in Saturday's 117-106 victory over the Pistons at the Capital Centre, worked out yesterday and said he expects to play tonight.

"If Kevin is ready, I'll start him," Motta said.

Grevey, the Bullets' third-leading scorer with a 12.6 average, is also nursing a sore left knee.

"My knee was sore before Saturday's game and I had to have it drained a few days ago," Grevey said. "I have good flex in both my hamstrings, I just have to get them stronger.

Motta gave the team Sunday and Monday off.

Steve Malovic, who missed most of training camp with a bad back and all of the regular season so far with a sprained ankle, also returned to practice yesterday. But he is not yet in condition to play.

"It's like starting all over for him Motta said of the 6-foot-10 rookie from San Diego State. "He looked all right, but he isn't ready yet."

"My ankle feels all right; it's just tough to cut on it," Malovic said. "I think I'll be ready in about a week."

The Bullets have indicated that when Malovic is ready, he will probably replace guard Gus Baily on the 11-man roster. But it is when Mitch Kupchak returns, apparently sometime next month, that the Bullets will be in a numbers bind.

When Motta looks ahead, he sees a starting lineup consisting of Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Dandridge, Grevey and Kevin Porter. His second five is made up of Kupchak, Ballard, Dave Corzine, Phil Chenier and Larry Wright. That leaves Phegley as a swing man and Malovic as a frontcourt backup. One player would have to go.

Phegley was excused from yesterday's practice to be with his wife and her ailing grandmother in Peoria, Ill.