Bobby Dandridge, the Bullets' No. 1 missing person, practiced yesterday for the first time since the middle of November.

Dandridge has not played since Nov. 1 because of what he said were calcium deposits in his right knee.

"I've been inactive so long, I wanted to work out and break a sweat," said the 33-year-old forward, now on the injured reserve list. "I still have difficulty with the leg. Basically, I was just running to see if it had improved."

"Sometimes," he said, "you just want to prove to yourself that you are giving it all you can."

Dandridge said he would continue to work out every other day for the next 10 days before deciding whether "I have surgery now or come back" and have surgery over the summer.

"I'm just going to continue to practice and see whether I can help the team," he said.

But, he said, "The team is playing well right now, and I wouldn't want to disrupt what's going on."

Maybe the Bullets could use a little disruption. Six days ago, they beat the 76ers in Philadelphia to end their 22-game home winning streak. It was the Bullets' third win of a seven-game road trip and they were sitting pretty.

Since then, they have lost twice, to Detroit by two points when they played well, and on Tuesday to Portland by 20 points when they did not.

The Bullets aren't close to panicking (they trail the Chicago Bulls by 1 1/2 games in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference). But as they prepare to meet the 76ers tonight at Capital Centre, they are wondering -- sometimes aloud -- what's going on.

Kevin Grevey, who has scored 131 points in the last five games and been the top scorer in four of them, said, "Historically, when we come off the road we have trouble. But we'll bounce back. I think we'll beat Philadelphia."

Coach Gene Shue says the Bullets "are doing the same things we were doing when we won nine out of ten. We're running the same. We lost (to Portland) because we couldn't stop the other team's running game."

"We're more effective when we run," Grevey said. "Gene's philosophy is to blend the two, to know when the break is there, and if it's not, to pull it back and go to an offense. But it takes a smart team to do that, and I don't think we're that smart of a basketball team.

"The reason I say that is that we've had a lot of people in and out of the lineup, with injuries and guys on 10-day contracts. Maybe sometimes that's why we seem confused out there.

"But we're getting better and the reason we're playing better is that we're playing smarter," the veteran guard said. "Early on, Wes Matthews (since traded to Atlanta for Don Collins) was guilty of throwing the ball into the stands on the fast break. It discouraged us from going on the break. Now, we've got Collins and Kevin Porter's playing impeccably. It's a good mix, running and slowing it up. Gene's not pulling in the reins. iHe just doesn't want us to get into a run-and-gun situation."

Especially against Philadelphia. "That would be crazy." Shue said, "That's their style. You want to set the pace, take good shots off the break and if you don't get them, go to the set offense.

"We're not a super team. We have to have a lot of things happen right to win. If not, we can lose. We're not in the class with teams like Philadelphia, who can have bad games and still win."