The Washington Bullets apparently have demoted John Lucas to third string and will decide this week whether to take further disciplinary action against the veteran guard.

Lucas missed practice Friday and didn't notify the team of his whereabouts until late that night. He accompanied the team to New York Saturday and played five minutes in the Bullets' 85-79 loss to the Knicks.

Coach Gene Shue said he would start using rookie guard Bryan Warrick in place of Lucas. Warrick played 10 minutes Saturday, had one assist and didn't score, but Shue said he liked what he saw.

Shue said he had nothing to say about Lucas other than that Lucas was fined $250 and the team was still deciding what other action it might take.

"I don't know what's going to happen with him," Shue said.

"I have no idea right now what we're going to do," said General Manager Bob Ferry. "It's a delicate situation and I just don't know what we can do."

Friday's was the second practice Lucas failed to show up for in the last two weeks. He was fined $250 for a Nov. 30 absence and no other disciplinary action was taken then.

Lucas admitted last season to having a problem with cocaine and missed two games and a number of practices without an excuse.

Lucas earns $300,000 a year, but because of his problems last season, the Bullets reworked his contract so that if he is cut because of offcourt behavior due to his past problems, the contract is not guaranteed.

The Bullets have several options. They can do nothing, they can bench him or they can cut him and sign another playmaker, perhaps Kevin Porter, who was released before the start of the season.

Lucas would say nothing about Friday's absence other than "it was a personal problem and it's been taken care of." Lucas did say he was very concerned how his absence Friday would affect his career.

"I hope I'm not too deep in the doghouse," he said. "I want to play and I know I can help this team win. Everything is all right with me."

Recently, Lucas had been splitting playing time with Frank Johnson and had averaged 12 points and seven assists in the two games before the Knicks game Saturday. He had three points and no assists against New York.

The 79 points the Bullets scored against the Knicks was their lowest point total of the season. The defeat was only their third in the last 10 games and dropped their record to 10-11 . . . The Bullets have games in Chicago Tuesday and Detroit Friday before returning to the Capital Centre Saturday night for a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.