There are several sure signs of spring and one of them is that Kevin Grevey's three-point shots are popping up like dandelions after a rain.

After taking only 26 bonus shots in the Bullets' first 42 games, Grevey has put up 44 in the last 24, including a dozen in the last four games.

"I'm finally not getting dirty looks from Gene (Shue)," Grevey said yesterday as the team prepared for tonight's game in Atlanta (WTOP-1500, 7:35). "I think it can be a valuable part of our offense. Coach knows I'm not going to take them unless I'm shooting well, but I've always taken more near the end of the season."

Grevey made two of three against Boston and the same Sunday against New York. His four-point play gave the Bullets a three-point lead with 2:47 to play as they edged the Knicks, 110-109, to move into a third-place tie with New Jersey.

"It was a big, big play," Shue said after Grevey made a three-pointer, was fouled and sank the free throw. "Three-pointers have a way of giving the team a real lift. They can be valuable if they're used wisely."

Risking a shot 25 feet from the basket takes a great deal of confidence and most players prefer not to subject themselves to criticism by missing from that range.

Frank Johnson often draws the assignment of shooting three-pointers when the Bullets are trailing late in a game. He and Grevey lead the team with 70 attempts; Johnson has made 17 for a .242 percentage, not enough to qualify among the league leaders.

Grevey also has attempted 70, making 26. His .371 percentage ranks sixth behind league-leading John Roche of Denver, who has made 23 of 49 (.469). Nobody else on the Bullets has tried more than 15.

"I feel very comfortable shooting three-pointers," Grevey said. "I'm always a slow starter, but now I've played enough games and my confidence is at a peak.

"Three-pointers are something you have to practice," the seven-year veteran from Kentucky continued. "Early in the year you have to work on getting the plays down right and on your defense. Now, the offense is second nature, I'm in great physical condition and I'm confident."

Although three-pointers are employed by many coaches strictly as a catch-up weapon, Grevey believes they can be just as effective earlier in the game.

"I made two in a row in the third quarter at New York (March 13) and that helped us start a winning rally," he recalled. "If I can hit a couple early, it really helps the rest of my shooting. It's a real confidence builder.

"The clock is more important than the score. If it's in the first half, it really doesn't matter if we're up five or down five. But you don't like to take it with a lot of time on the shot clock because there's always a chance you can get the ball inside or get a higher percentage shot."

Another value of three-point shots is that they prevent the defense from sagging in on the Bullets' big men. Also, if a three-point shot misses, often the rebound comes off hard and gives the offense a better opportunity to recover it.

Still, most coaches shudder when one is attempted, so there must be something to their thinking. Only two teams have tried fewer than 100--Los Angeles (81) and Philadelphia (89)--and they don't have much trouble winning.