Gene Shue was talking about one of his newest players.

"Bradley Dudley has very good defensive instincts," he began before someone interrupted Shue to say he had the name backward.

"Dudley Bradley," Shue said. "I always say it wrong. At least, I haven't said it wrong to him."

The irony has not been lost on Bradley, who has hardly gotten to know any of his pro coaches. He played defense so well for the University of North Carolina that the Indiana Pacers made him the 13th pick overall in the 1979 National Basketball Association draft despite a career college scoring average of 4.4 points per game.

For five years, Bradley has been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"In my whole career, I've never been under the same coach for two years," he said between practices yesterday at the Bullets' Fort Meade training camp. "Each year I had to be a rookie all over again and show the coach what I can do."

It started at Indianapolis, where Bob Leonard drafted him. As a rookie, Bradley played 25 minutes a game and had more steals (211) than fouls (194). But Leonard was fired and the new coach, Jack McKinney, cleaned house and got rid of a number of high-priced players.

Alex English was traded to Denver, Mickey Johnson to Milwaukee and Johnny Davis to Atlanta, and James Edwards signed with Cleveland. The Pacers shipped Bradley to Phoenix for two second-round draft choices.

But "they had D.J. (Dennis Johnson) and were satisfied with a three-guard rotation," Bradley said. "They couldn't play a fourth guard and they felt they were hurting me, so they sent me to Chicago (for a third-round choice)."

There, he played a season under Paul Westhead and seemed to find his niche. But Westhead was fired and Kevin Loughery, the new coach, kept Ronnie Lester over Bradley.

Last season, Bradley played for the Detroit Spirits of the Continental Basketball Association for $5,000. "That's a year, not a month," he said. "I had a lot of money saved up from the NBA. It's hard to live off that amount of money."

All along, the game has been basketball, but the defensive styles have been so different. "Slick (Leonard) liked it aggressive," Bradley said. "McKinney was closer to a zone. Phoenix was not as aggressive. Westhead was straight man-to-man, and Kevin (Loughery) liked to play kind of like a zone."

Now he is with the Bullets after signing a two-year contract as a free agent at the minimum salary of $65,000. Finally, Bradley may be in the right place at the right time, because the Bullets have added offense with guard Gus Williams and forward Cliff Robinson.

"Gus is going to be (out on) the fast break, make a few steals and that kind of stuff, so we really would like a strong defensive guy matched up there with him," Shue said.

The competition for the position includes Jeff Malone, the team's No. 1 draft pick a year ago; Frank Johnson, a starting guard for three years, and rookie Delonte Taylor, whose strength is offense.

With training camp only four days old, Shue was noncommittal about Bradley's role.

"No matter what -- see, we teach a little different-type defense here -- even though you have good instincts and are a good individual defensive player, you have to blend those individual talents into what the team does," Shue said. "He's now in the process of learning the type of team defense that we use.

"I'm so busy right now trying to work in the team defense. It's in the back of my mind what combinations we'll use . . . I don't want to make a judgment (on Bradley). I know he's a very good defensive player, but I want to take more time to see what he does rebounding-wise and what he does offensively."

For the time being, Shue is working at an accelerated pace to get the team's defense and offense in place in two weeks. As a result, he is concerned more about basics this week.

"I won't be tolerating as much defensively in the second week. Of course, I'm never happy with the defense," he said. "I see our team being successful. But I can't see us being successful without a foundation, and that foundation is defense."

Shue has split the 15-man squad into three five-man teams that rotate in scrimmages. One of the highlights of yesterday's highly spirited practice was Jeff Ruland and Rick Mahorn pounding each other underneath, as they normally do to opponents during the season . . . Gus Williams is fitting in nicely. The scrimmages were half court for most of the day, but there was one sequence in the full-court version that gave an indication of what Williams can do. On a one-on-two situation, he used his speed to beat both defenders and score a layup, then stole the inbounds pass and made another layup . . . Aside from forward Greg Ballard, an unsigned veteran free agent, Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff was the only other absentee. He was home with flu . . . The first exhibition game is Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers in Greensboro, N.C. Shue says he has yet to consider a starting lineup.