Bob Dandridge is ailing again and probably will not be available for other than spot duty, if that, for the rest of the season.

The Bullets have an important game tonight against the Houston Rockets at Capital Centre at 8:05. Washington, loser of two in a row, is seventh in the Eastern Conference, one game behind Houston and San Antonio, which are tied for fifth place.

Only the top six teams in each conference gain the playoffs.

All three teams were idle last night. The Spurs will play at Detroit tonight.

Dandridge begun complaining of a sore calf more than a month ago and the injury originally was diagnosed as a pulled muscle.

It didn't improve with rest and every time he tried to play, the calf hurt. It was finally rediagnosed as calcium on the bone below the knee.

After missing three games, playing in two then missing 12 in a row, Dandridge returned to action Tuesday at Capital Centre against the Spurs.

He scored four points and had three rebounds in 22 minutes, but said later he was in a great deal of pain.

He tried to play again Thursday night against the 76ers in Philadelphia, but lasted only seven minutes and did not score.

He told Coach Dick Motta at halftime that his leg hurt too badly to continue.

"Obviously rest didn't do any good, because it doesn't feel any better," Dandridge said. "I can't play my normal game like this. I'm only hurting the team, not helping it. If I can't contribute anything, there isn't much reason for me to be playing. By going out there in my condition, I'm just taking minutes away from guys like (Lawrence) Boston.

"I don't know what I'm going to do, but something has to be done to correct this. I guess I'll check with some other medical people and see what they can tell me.

"I have to start thinking about not playing anymore this season until I get this thing corrected."

Dandridge said surgery is a possibility.

The Bullets have not put Dandridge on the injured list so far because they need him even if it is for just a few minutes here and there. But they now will have to consider getting a replacement.

"If he (Dandridge) can't play, we'll just do what we have to do," said Motta. "There's no sense worrying about it.

"Without Bobby and Mitch (Kupchak), though, I'm killing Wes (Unseld), E (Elvin Hayes) and Greg (Ballard). I just don't have any substitutes."

Ballard has been spectacular the last two games, with 32 points and 10 rebounds against the 76ers and 28 points and nine rebounds against the Spurs.

But Ballard is the type who goes 100 percent every minute he is on the floor. He doesn't like to pace himself, and as a result tires sometimes, losing some of his effectiveness.

In the last four games, Unseld has played 45, 43, 46 and 45 minutes and Hayes 46, 53, 44 and 46 minutes.

"I've got to play them until they drop," Motta said.

Boston has given the Bullets a few minutes a game, but Dave Corzine has played little. With each game crucial to their playoff chances, Motta wants to go with his best for as long as they can last.

The Bullets play seven games in the next 10 days.

The Bullets will televise the Georgetown-Maryland NCAA East Regional game on TelScreen immediately after tonight's game . . . The starting time for Sunday's game against the New York Knicks has been moved back an hour to 2 p.m. . . . The struggling Rockets have lost three in a row and the closest margin in the string was 16 points. Rudy Tomjanovich has missed two of the last three games with a virus, but is expected to play tonight. Rick Barry has a sore knee, but he, too, is expected to play . . . Calvin Murphy, who suffered a concussion when he collided with Ballard in a game in Houston two weeks ago, missed four games but has played in the last four. He is wearing protective head gear and averaging 10.5 points and shooting 37 percent since coming back.