The Joe Pace comeback attempt ended yesterday when the Bullets put the controversial 6-foot-10 center on waivers.

Also released, on the eve of the team's exhibition season opener against the Chicago Bulls in LaGrange, Ill., was former Coolidge High School player Claude Gregory, whom the Bullets drafted with one of their three second-round picks in June.

"I just didn't feel Joe or Claude could make this team," said Coach Gene Shue. "We gave them a look and we're releasing them now so maybe they can catch on somewhere else."

Pace, 28, played with the Bullets in the 1976-77 and '77-78 seasons before being released because of his unpredictable behavior. He later was signed by the Boston Celtics, but disappeared before the season started and was cut.

Pace played in Europe the last two seasons, but had trouble there, too. In March 1980, after almost dying of a heroin overdose, he was arrested in Pesaro, Italy, on various drug abuse charges and spent 10 days in jail before being released with a suspended sentence.

He impressed Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry enough in this summer's Urban Coalition League to get invited to camp, but Pace seemed listless most of the time and failed to show up for one practice.

Gregory, from Wisconsin, was caught in the numbers game and the 6-8 power forward never really had much of a chance of making the team.

Shue also decided to leave two players, Randy Martell and Elisha McSweeney, at home on this first road trip, which also will take the Bullets to Ashland, Ohio, to play Cleveland Thursday and Glens Falls, N.Y., to face the Knicks Saturday.

"They haven't been cut," Shue said, "but we have too many players and can't possibly play everybody. They'll rejoin us next week and get their chance in the later exhibition games."

Shue said he probably will start Andre McCarter and Brad Holland at guards tonight against the Bulls, with Rick Mahorn at center and Greg Ballard and rookie Charles Davis at forwards.

Carlos Terry, who has a sprained knee, won't make the trip either. Don Collins (sprained right ankle) and Kevin Grevey (dislocated little finger on his shooting hand) aren't expected to play tonight, but probably will play Thursday.

"We haven't had a day off since camp opened," Shue said, "and it's starting to show. The players were noticeably tired today. They were dragging. This is the right time for us to start playing some other people. We have to find out now if these guys can play."