Jim Chones last week found himself part of the trade that sent Mitch Kupchak to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kupchak's immediate reaction to the deal was one of sadness. Chones was more pragmatic at suddenly becoming a Washington Bullet.

"There are so many people laid off right now, I'm just glad to be working," said Chones, 31, who has been playing professional basketball for nine seasons. "I can't be sad because I was traded."

Chones, a 6-foot-11 center-forward who has not missed a game in six seasons, averaged 10.8 points and eight rebounds a game last season. He came to the Lakers in 1979 after five years with Cleveland. Chones became a professional in 1972 with the old ABA New York Nets after he was drafted as a hardship case before graduation from Marquette.

In a telephone interview, Chones said yesterday he and his wife Elores were excited about the move because it would bring them and their daughters, Kareeda, 5, and Kaayla, 7 months, closer to their hometown of Cleveland.

"California is fine, but L.A. was a little fast for me," Chones admitted. "I'm a real Midwesterner."

Chones was conducting a basketball camp in Racine, Wis., last week when he received a telegram from the Lakers telling him to get ready to move.

"I wasn't really surprised," he said. "We had discussed some things early in the summer and I told them that they had to do what was best for the team. There wasn't any ego involved and I can't complain. I was on a world championship team one year and that was a dream come true for me.

"The main thing I'll really miss, the thing out there that really touched my heart, will be the kids."

In his spare time, Chones worked with mentally retarded children at Los Angeles' Miller School and ran a city boys club basketball league.

It is the Miller School children who are the hardest for Chones to leave behind. "Those kids really got to know me; for some I was their favorite Laker."

As soon as he learned of the trade, Chones began to inquire about opportunities for working with youngsters in Washington. A friend with the Kennedy Foundation assured Chones there would be plenty to do.

"I plan to be even more involved in working with kids while I'm in Washington," Chones said.

Chones said he doesn't know what his role will be with the Bullets. His only contact with the team has been a congratulatory call from Coach Gene Shue shortly after the trade was made.

"Well, with (Wes) Unseld retiring, (Elvin) Hayes moving on to Houston and Kupchak gone, we were really short on big men," Shue said yesterday. "Until we got Chones we were relying on (Ricky) Mahorn and (Jeff) Ruland and they are both really inexperienced players.

"Jim had a good career in Cleveland and did quite well with the Lakers. But he is not a great ballplayer. He's a very steady pro ballplayer and that's what we needed.

"We hope he'll blend in nicely with the rest of the team."