"When a team is going badly, the sharks start to circle." -- Dick Motta

Dick Motta, coach of the Washington Bullets, said yesterday that he hopes General Manger Bob Ferry doesn't "panic and make a move," in response to the team's current five game losing streak.

The Bullets have been going badly. Tuesday's 114-91 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers dropped their record to 20-26, 15 games behind the division-leading Philadelphia 76ers. If the playoffs started today the Bullets, host tonight to the New Jersey Nets, would not qualify.

"I think it's foolish to say that anyone on a team that is six games under .500 is untouchable," Motta said."In this business no one's untouchable, including the coaches and the general manager."

If Ferry is planning a trade, Motta said he hopes it isn't a lateral move.

"If he wants to talk about a move I'll listen very hard. If it's a move that can solve our problem, I'd certainly favor it. But I don't think just making a move as a result of a five-game losing streak would be good for the team. Just the talk isn't good for the team."

The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 15.

Reached last night, Ferry said: "I think that's accurate . . . (On) all trades Dick and I talk everything over. We would make no moves that he doesn't want or that I don't want."

Asked if he were actively pursuing a trade, Ferry replied: "The teams that lose always get to know each other better. The teams that are slumping always become very familiar with each other . . . I think what's out on the market has more to do with trades than what's happening to us. There has to be something out there."

As far as a "panic move," Ferry said, "What does 'panic' mean? It all comes down to those beautiful words, 'How do you improve the team?' Every bad trade was a good idea, well thought out at the time.

"As long as you're in the business, you'll make bad trades. You hope you make enough good ones to hope you'll be in the business long enough to make another bad one."

Ferry called Motta at home yesterday to talk about the team. "I have no doubt that he's been on the phone talking possible trades," Motta said.

Motta has been unhappy with the play of the team's guards, especially defensively, all season. He has settled on recently acquired Jim Cleamons as his point guard but has been shuffling the wing guards of late, using Kevin Grevey, Larry Wright and Roger Phegley, all with mixed success.

He also experimented with Greg Ballard as the starter at small forward. Ballard hit a hot streak while subbing for an injured Bob Dandridge. Motta used Dandridge in as a reserve when he returned, leaving Ballard as a starter.

Motta says he will return Dandridge to the starting lineup, beginning with the Nets game. He also said he plans to settle on one guard as Cleamons' partner but isn't sure yet who that will be.

"We've tried every possible combination back ther," he said "We don't seem to be able to stop anyone at all defensively at the guards. Then, when the guards start worring about their defense, it affects their offense.

"There's a couple of jobs open on this team in the starting lineup. The bench guys know that three good games in a row will make them a starter. I would think that would be an incentive."

Motta said the most frustrating loss of the recent trip was in Detroit where the Bullets lost a game to the lowly Pistons on a tip-in by guard John Long with 20 seconds left.

"It isn't so much having a guard tip the ball in as stopping their first shot, having a chance to have the game won, then allowing a tipin," he said. "We caught a hot team in San Antonio and would have needed a miracle to win in Houston Friday.

"We're not playing well right now. We're not shooting well. We're in a slump. We're not playing the way this team has characteristically played in the past."

In spite of the team's poor performance, Motta said, he has worked hard to keep from getting discouraged. "If the team gets discouraged and starts to accept losing, that's sad," he said. "Hope that isn't happening here. Coaches aren't allowed to get discouraged or frustrated. We can't afford it. cWe have to keep trying to find the right combination, find something to get us going."

Motta also hinted that perhaps the team's depth has been worn down by the Bullets' lack of success in recent drafts. Last year, the Bullets, drafting last traded their No. 1 pick for Steve Malovic, who was then cut. Two years ago they drafted Roger Phegley and Dave Corzine on the first round. Both have had moments of excellence but have not been consistent.

"Part of our problem may be the success we've had the past few years," Motta said. "When you're consistently drafting 15th, 16th or lower and other people are drafting third or fourth, they have a lot better chance of replenishing their depth and their bench.

"There are a million different philosophies when a team that's done well in the past is going poorly," he continued. "This team had the best record in the league last year We've got good players. I hope we're not going to panic at this point."

Motta said that he was not the least bit insecure about his job but also admitted this season had been less than enjoyable.