Don Collins isn't one to let an opportunity pass by.

Collins, a 6-foot-6 guard/forward the Bullets acquired last season from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Wes Matthews, got his first start of the season against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden Thursday night. The Bullets looked like a different team with him in the lineup.

They ran better than at any time this season on their way to their highest point production in their most lopsided victory of the year, 114-88. Knick President Sonny Werblin was so upset with his players he called them a "disgrace to New York" and berated the team in the locker room after the game.

Collins played 44 minutes and made 11 of 15 shots, including his last eight, as he scored a season-high 25 points. He had eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and committed only one turnover.

Collins had not started before because Coach Gene Shue had no place to play him. Greg Ballard is the Bullets' most dependable player at the moment and has to be on the floor as much as possible. If Shue used Collins at small forward and Ballard at power forward, the Bullets would be at a rebounding disadvantage.

The big-guard spot is the best place for Collins, but Kevin Grevey has been there. Collins started Thursday only because Grevey was sidelined with a groin-muscle pull. However, even if Grevey is able to play tonight at Capital Centre against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Collins most likely will start.

The rap against Collins is that he is weak defensively. And if the Bullets aren't fast-breaking, he isn't as effective. But he showed against the Knicks that he can play defense and function in a half-court offense.

"He has such great foot speed that he can make up for whatever defensive deficiencies he has with that," John Lucas said of Collins