Coach Gene Shue said he will probably bench struggling rookie Bryan Warrick and start Billy Ray Bates at guard tonight when the slumping Washington Bullets face the San Antonio Spurs at Capital Centre at 8:05.

In another move, the Bullets re-signed forward Carlos Terry to replace Spencer Haywood, who is on the injured list with a strained calf.

Terry, 6-foot-5, is capable of playing all five positions, but Shue said he would be used primarily at power forward, Haywood's position. Terry was one of three players cut the day before the season to get the Bullets to the 12-player limit.

Shue said the signing of Terry doesn't mean the Bullets aren't still searching for a high-scoring power forward.

"We need that offense Spencer supplied," said Shue. "We're still exploring a lot of possibilities. There is still a chance we might make a trade."

Without Haywood, the Bullets need to pick up additional scoring and the obvious place is at shooting guard.

Warrick started the last six games but scored only eight points (two of 19 from the field) and had 12 assists. He didn't score in the last three games, all of which the Bullets lost.

Bates, on the other hand, has been a consistent scorer off the bench. He has averaged 13.6 points in the last five games.

"We definitely need offense in the back court," said Shue. "At least with Bates, (George) Gervin will have to worry about him scoring, too.

Gervin, the Spurs' 6-7 guard has led the NBA in scoring four of the last five years. He is currently second in the league with a 29.6 average and scored 47 in a game last week against Phoenix.

As for suggestions Shue should start Jeff Ruland, the coach said, "It's a problem because Jeff and Rick (Mahorn) both get into foul trouble a lot and I'll have to bring in (Dave) Batton, who is very inexperienced."

Shue said another Bullet rookie, Steve Lingenfelter, "is even less experienced than Batton."

Another plan would have Greg Ballard at power forward and Charles Davis or Don Collins at small forward. "There are situations where that might work," Shue said.

Shue said he is also planning to use John Lucas more at guard, but is against teaming him with Frank Johnson. Lucas has picked up the team often this season.

"John is an up tempo type player," said Shue. "He wants to run the fast break all of the time. The question with him is knowing when to pull up and run the offense."

The Bullets have lost four of their last five, including their last two at Capital Centre.

"Everything has to happen right for us to be effective," said Shue. "That's the kind of team we are. The smallest thing can upset our balance. I don't know when the last time was I could sit back and just see a flow to the game. It's almost like when the game starts, the search for the right combination is on."

The Spurs, who lead the Midwest Division, lost at home to Kansas City last night, 105-102, while the Bullets were idle . . . Center Artis Gilmore, acquired in the offseason from Chicago for Dave Corzine and Mark Olberding, is third in the NBA in rebounding (13.1) and second in blocked shots (3.33) . . . In addition to Gervin and Gilmore, the other San Antonio starters are guard Johnny Moore and forwards Gene Banks and Mike Mitchell . . . After tonight's game, the Bullets begin a four-game trip starting against the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers Friday. The Bullets also play at San Diego, Phoenix and Indiana before returning home to face Portland Nov. 27.