Bobby Dandridge insists that he is not the prodigal son.Still, he has returned.

"I don't want to think of myself in that vein," said Dandridge, who rejoined the Bullets today, after being reactivated Friday. "That means you are going to come back and do something miraculous."

Bobby D will be back in uniform tomorrow against his former teammates, the Milwaukee Bucks, after missing 56 games. He has not played since Nov. 1 because of what he says are calcium deposits that are pinching a nerve in his right knee. He has practiced with the team twice since Feb. 19.

Austin Carr strained his back and had to be placed on the injured list Friday, leaving a space on the roster. "It provided the opportunity for me to come back and see if I could play any more this year," Dandridge said, "I'd rather come back in a situation like this than 10 days from now and have someone bumped from the roster and disrupt some of the good things that are happening with the team.

"I want to see if i can continue in basketball. Am I nervous? No. Excited? Yes. Excited about the possiblilty of at least attempting to continue a career in basketball."

If it has been a long season for the Bullets without Dandridge, it has been a long season for Dandridge without basketball. "I've been able to see what the real world is like," he said. "The real world is more competitive than playing in the NBA (where you know exactly what the rules are.

But there are no rules that dictate how to do nothing. "It is boring to get up at 10:30, have a few business appointments, and at 2:30 say, 'What am I going to do now?'" said Dandridge, who had become a househusband. "I pick up my daughter at 3. Now what? Watch cartoons? I'd rather be playing ball.

"I took it for granted before. Traveling was a hassle. Unpacking was a hassle. When you don't have it to do, that's when the hassles come up."

In January, after he had listened to all of his old records, watched the tape of the seventh game of the 1978 NBA championship series for the zillionth time and visited once too often all the people who had always said to drop by, he made a New Year's resolution. "I made up my mind to give it another shot this year," he said.

He had found out how much he missed basketball. "I thought it was crummy," he said. "I found out there are a lot crummier jobs."

And so, he says, he is prepared to work at his. "I know the condition's not there. I know the shooting is not going to be there. I'm willing to do some things I haven't done before: over time."

Dandridge has been working with a trainer and spent several weeks with New York orthopedist Jeffrey Minkoff, who told him that a nerve that runs through the leg had become pinched by calcium deposits forming in his knee joint. The doctor told him he could have surgery, with two to three months of rehabilitation, and then try to resume his career. Or he could try to play with the pain.

Dandridge played only 45 games last season before undergoing surgery over the summer, which, he said, "relieved some of the numbness but did not remove the pain in the back of the knee."

He played in only 11 games this season, averaging 13 points and shooting 40 percent from the field, before going on the injured list. "I'm back now to see if I can endure the discomfort. I'd like to prove myself that I didn't shortcut my career. I don't want to look back in two years and say, 'Dandridge, you could have stood it.'"

Dandridge said that after the next few weeks he will decide whether he can play with his knee as it is, have more surgery -- a possibility he is not enthused about -- or retire.

Coach Gene Shue, who was scheduled to talk with Dandridge Saturday night, said earlier in the day that he did not know where or when he would use Dandridge. Whether he plays today against the Bucks, Shue said, depends on how the game is going. Friday night's loss to Chicago would have been a good time to play him, Shue suggested, "because we were struggling."

There is no doubt that the Bullets, who now trail the Chicago Bulls by 1 1/2 games in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, could use him.