When Magic Johnson entered the National Basketball Association last season and dazzled everybody with his ball-handling skills, he was immediately hailed as the player of the future, a 6-foot-9 marvel who could do everything.

In Chicago, however, they just yawned. After all, they'd been watching a Magic Man of their own for a year.

The Bull's Reggie Theus has the Hollywood good looks and, at 6-7, could be the second-best all-around guard in the league after Johnson.

Theus doesn't quite have Johnson's flair for the dramatic and he has always played for bad teams in Chicago, so he isn't as well known. But when it comes to shooting, passing, rebounding and defense -- everything, in other words -- few guards are in his class. Theus will lead the Bulls into Capital Centre tonight at 8:05 to face the Bullets. A victory would make Chicago a .500 team. The Bulls have already beaten the Bullets three straight times this season; the last time, 96-94, here Dec. 16.

Who was the big man for the Bulls in that game?

Theus, of course. He scored 23 points and had six rebounds, four assists and two steals. He also scored the game-winning points in the final three seconds.

Wes Mathews, only 6-1, didn't screen Theus off the boards when Ricky Sobers put up a shot from the corner with the score tied at 94. The ball bounced off the rim, but Theus came in, got the rebound and laid it in for the Chicago victory.

Theus was one of two players in the league last year to lead his team in both scoring and assists (Paul Westphal, then with Phoenix, was the other) and he is the only one doing it this season.

"Although I do score some, I don't consider myself a shooting guard," said Theus, 23. "I'm definitely a big guard, but there are only a few true shooters who are big guards.

"I consider myself a scorer and a player who can handle the ball as well as most point guards. I like to look at myself as an all-around guard who can adopt to whatever situation is necessary to win ball games. The reason I can both score and get a lot of assists is that I try to get up and down the floor quickly and I get the ball off the break."

The Bulls have the tallest starting five in the league, with 7-2 Artis Gilmore at center, 6-9 forwards David Greenwood and Larry Kenon and 6-5 Sam Worthen as the other guard. The other Chicago guards are 6-7 Bob Wilkerson and 6-4 Sobers. By comparison, the Bullets guards are 5-10, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 and 6-5.

"It adds another dimension when you have big guards," said Theus. "It can cause tremendous matchup problems for the opposition, and our team tries to take advantage of the height of our guards as much as possible."

The Bullets are struggling. Milwaukee beat them badly, 115-94, Tuesday, outrebounding them by 20.

This will be the Bullets' last home game before their longest road trip so far this season -- a five-game, nine-day swing that will take them to Cleveland, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Dallas and San Antonio. The Bullets are 3-14 on the road this season.