The Washington Bullets put starting power forward Spencer Haywood on the injured list yesterday because of a strained right calf, a move Haywood, 33, said could end his career.

Haywood said if the injury doesn't heal enough to "allow me to do the things I'm accustomed to doing, then I will retire."

Under National Basketball Association rules, Haywood must miss at least five games, but can remain on the injured list indefinitely.

Coach Gene Shue, his assistant, Bernie Bickerstaff, and General Manager Bob Ferry said they were caught off guard when Haywood told them of the seriousness of his injury yesterday. Haywood said the injury is so bad he felt he was hurting the team.

Once the decision was made to deactivate Haywood, Shue, Ferry and Bickerstaff were left scrambling.

"There aren't any power forwards who can score 20 points a game out there," said Ferry. "I don't know what we're going to do."

The best trade bait the Bullets have appears to be guards Don Collins or Billy Ray Bates. They have two first-round draft choices next season -- their own and Los Angeles' from the Mitch Kupchak deal -- and three second-round picks.

The move to put Haywood on the injured list comes one day after Haywood said Shue implied he was "a handicap to this team," following the Bullets' third straight defeat, 102-93, at Philadelphia. Haywood said then he was so upset by the criticism he was contemplating asking to be traded or retiring.

Haywood said yesterday the situation was a misunderstanding between Shue and himself regarding the calf injury. It has been bothering him since he twisted his leg coming down after a shot against New Jersey Nov. 3.

"I wanted to play and help the team so badly that I never told Gene how badly I was hurt," said Haywood. "I told him I could play, so he expected me to perform like I had been performing. When I couldn't, he criticized me.

"My statements Sunday were out of frustration. I didn't want to admit I was hurt as badly as I am, but now I have to face the reality of the injury. I'm dragging my leg when I run and I can't jump off it, or shoot or rebound right because of it.

"I just don't want to play like this any more. I can't help the team if I can't do the things I want to do on the floor. I'm just taking up someone else's spot who might be able to help them.

"This team has been too good to me for me to do anything to hurt it," Haywood added. "When they signed me last year, they gave me my prestige, pride and dignity back and before I let that deteriorate, I'll leave.

"I'm going to work like heck to get back. I have to be 100 percent, though. If I'm not, I'll retire."

Haywood said he has had a variety of tests in a vain attempt to determine what is wrong with his leg.

"The more I worked, the worse it got," he said.

Shue said he had a long talk with Haywood yesterday and was "impressed with Haywood's attitude. He sincerely doesn't want to do anything that will hurt the team," said Shue. "He really wants to do well and he wants to do the right thing, but it just wasn't happening for him. The injury wouldn't let him do the things he wanted to do."

Although Ferry said he isn't in a hurry to acquire someone to take Haywood's place, Shue is.

"We need a power forward," Shue said. "We have to get somebody. We just threw out a lot of names today. We want somebody who can give us offense. We don't know what we're going to do yet, but we want somebody in by Wednesday (when the Bullets play San Antonio), if possible.

"It's hard to make a trade or pick up somebody who'll help, so I just don't know. The problem is that the power forwards who can play are already playing."

Ferry said he didn't know of any available player who could fill Haywood's role.

"We'll carry 11 players until we make up our mind," he said. "We're looking for help and if we find it, fine, but if not, we'll have to go with what we have. We're missing a forward who can score 20 points a game and we aren't going to find another one like that. Nobody cuts people who can score 20 points a game."

The names that Ferry and Shue mentioned as possibilities were Mike Bantom, a free agent who played with Philadelphia last season; Michael Harper, who was cut by Portland, and George McGinnis, cut by Indiana.

Shue said Jeff Ruland would continue to start in Haywood's place "for now," with Dave Batton as backup. The Bullets also have used Greg Ballard, the starting small forward, at power forward. Rookie Steve Lingenfelter has played in only one game this season and Shue doesn't consider him a factor at this time.

Haywood averaged 20 points and was shooting 59 percent from the field before his injury. Since then, he has averaged 6.3 points and shot 34 percent. He also missed two of the last five games and the Bullets lost both of them.

Haywood joins guard Kevin Grevey on the injured list, putting the third- and fourth-leading scorers on the team last year there. Both averaged 13.3 points a game.

"That's almost 30 points a game we don't have now," said Ferry. "That's tough to overcome when you're only scoring in the 80s to begin with."