Luckily for the Washington Bullets, money isn't everything to Mitch Kupchak. If it was, they might as well go ahead and give his No. 25 jersey away.

The 6-foot-11 Kupchak will be one of the most sought after free agents when the league starts bidding for them as soon as the playoffs end.

The New York Knicks are reportedly the hottest in pursuit of Kupchak and are believed to be ready to offer as much as $500,000 a year. The Bullets don't have that kind of money and reportedly can't go beyond $350,000 a year to keep Kupchak. He earns $122,000 now.

The one thing in the Bullets' favor is that Kupchak wants to stay. He has made that known.

Kupchak's agent, Larry Fleisher of New York, said money most likely won't be the deciding factor in where Kupchak plays next season.

"There are a number of my clients who feel money isn't everything and Mitch is one of them," Fleisher said, "and he was expressed that interest probably stronger than most."

The Bullets can negotiate with Kupchak now, but the other 22 teams can't make him any offers until after the playoffs are concluded. Under an agreement between the players association and the owners, known as the right of first refusal, Kupchak can take one offer to the Bullets. They then can keep Kupchak by matching that offer.

"We haven't really sat down and talked to Mitch yet, but we will soon," said General Manager Bob Ferry.

Ferry also is pursuing 6-10 Jeff Ruland, whom the Bullets acquired from Golden State last season, but who played in Europe.

Ruland was encouraged to play in Europe because with the forwards and centers the Bullets had returning, there wasn't room for him on the roster. With Wes Unseld retired, Ruland becomes an important.

If the Bullets can sign him and keep Kupchak, those two, along with Rick Mahorn, will make the center spot solid and in the draft they can concentrate on other problems areas: a shooting guard, a big defensive guard and a strong, rebounding forward.