The best thing that has happened to the San Antonio Spurs lately is that they got of town safely.
"There's been an unbelievable amount of pressure on the whole team down here," Wayne Witt, a spokesman for the team said yesterday from San Antonio.
"I don't think any team has ever looked forward to a four-game road trip as much as we are looking forward to this one. The fans down here just aren't used to us playing as badly as we have been and they don't like it. jEveryone is talking about what's wrong with us and there isn't any place in town we can go to get away from it."
The once-exciting, razzle-dazzle Spurs have been playing lately as if they could use a few spurs in the right places. They have lost eight in a row, their longest losing streak since moving to San Antonio in 1973.
"This season hasn't been fun for me and I don't think it has been fun for any of us," said forward Larry Kenon. "The key to our past success has been that we were a bunch of guys playing and having fun."
While the Spurs are on their way down, the Bullets are on their way up. They passed each other Sunday, which will make things interesting tonight when they square off at Capital Centre at 8:05 in an extremely important game.
The Bullets won their eighth game in their last 10 Sunday with an impressive 133-128 overtime victory over the Boston Celtics at the Boston Garden. The Spurs lost, 134-118, to the Philadelphia 76ers in San Antonio.
The Bullets are expected to get another lift tonight because Bob dandridge, who has missed the last 12 games with a calf injury, will be available. However, Coach Dick Motta said yesterday that Greg Ballard will continue to start at the forward position, with Dandridge playing in a reserve role.
The win in Boston lifted the Bullets a half-game ahead of the Spurs, into sixth place -- the last playoff spot -- in the Eastern Conference. The Bullets are 33-36 with 13 games left, seven at Capital Centre. The Spurs are 33-37 with 12 games remaining, eight on the road.
Some observers say the Spurs' problem started before they played a single game this season, then snowballed.
First they lost center-forward Coby Dietrick and Allan Bristow as free agents. Then they traded another center-forward, Mike Green, for a second-round draft choice and cash.
They also cut holdover guard Louie Dampier and forward Glenn Mosley during training camp.
None of those moves appeared to help the Spurs, who, once they started losing, started panicking.
Last month they traded center Billy Paultz to Houston for John Shumate. When that did not turn the team around, they fired Coach Doug Moe.
Moe's replacement was General Manager Bob Bass, who also was doubling as Moe's assistant coach. Bass is 0-4 as head coach, all the losses coming at home.
The Spurs have made the playoffs every year since they arrived in San Antonio. They got to the conference final last season before losing to the Bullets in seven games.
When teams start to go bad, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why. But after the 76er game Sunday, Julius Erving said the spurs "just aren't t moving the ball like they used to."
"They used to whip the ball around, make three or four passes and get a layup," Erving said. "Now, they just play one on one."
The Spurs lead the NBA in scoring, averaging 121 points a game, but they are last in defense, yielding 122 points a contest.
The opposition is shooting 51 percent from the field against the Spurs, making them the easiest team in the league to score against.
To compound all those problems, the team's three best players -- George Gervin, James Silas and Kenon -- have been unhappy because of contract problems.
Motta still insists the Spurs should not be counted down and out.
"They've still got the 'Iceman,' and he can win a lot of games almost by himself," Motta said.
The Bullets have announced they have signed Lawrence Boston to a second 10-day contract. Boston, a 6-foot-8 forward from the University of Maryland, signed a similar contract with the team March 1 when Mitch Kupchak went on the disabled list . . . Motta gave the team yesterday off, both as a reward for its performance lately and because the players needed a rest badly . . . Elvin Hayes played all 53 minutes against the Celtics, marking the second time this season he has played 53 minutes in a game. He had 35 points and 17 rebounds against Boston and 27 points and 22 rebounds in 53 minutes against Kansas City on Feb. 10 . . . Kevin Grevey played only 12 minutes against the Celtics becuase he was ejected with two technical fouls for the first time this season . . . Tonight's game is the start of a hectic four-game in six-days stretch for the Bullets. After tonight's game, they will go to Philadelphia Wednesday to face the 76ers, then back to Capital Centre for a game Friday against Houston and one Sunday against New York . . . The Knicks host the Rockets tonight at Maidson Square Garden. Those two teams are tied for fourth place in the Conference, one game ahead of the Bullets.