The Bullets close out a rather meaningless preseason tonight in Miami against the New Jersey Nets, but the important developments will take place in Washington earlier in the day.

That is when guards Gus Williams, the key to the Bullets' transition to a running game, and Jeff Malone have their ankles examined by team physicians. Both are expected to receive the go-ahead to resume practice.

Williams was injured nine days ago, Malone on Thursday night. Forward Cliff Robinson, a draft-day acquisition, has begun conditioning drills and is expected to resume pratice Wednesday, two days before the regular-season opener at Chicago.

The prospects also are good that free agent Greg Ballard, the team's starting small forward, may be signed by then. Team management and Ballard's attorney continue talks.

In Norfolk, where Saturday the Bullets lost to the Houston Rockets, 97-91, for the second time in two nights, General Manager Bob Ferry said, "We're close, but nothing is sure." Attorney Larry Fleisher called that assessment "accurate."

Shue faces several tough decisions in the next four days. He has to decide on a starting lineup and reduce the roster by two players, if Ballard signs, by 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

Shue has several dilemmas, including what he describes as "a numbers problem."

Does he keep a player with potential, like forward Guy Williams, who has been out 1 1/2 seasons with a severe knee injury?

What does he do with another small forward, Charles Davis, a four-year veteran whose open-court style should be enhanced by the running game that Williams brings with him from Seattle?

If Ballard signs, how quickly will he be ready? He is usually a slow starter in camp.

If Shue decides that Frank Johnson, the 6-foot-2 starting point guard since his rookie season three years ago, is too small to pair with the 6-2 Williams, will the Bullets trade Johnson?

Shue is not publicly answering those questions -- and a number of others, too. But he likes players who can play two or more positions. Darren Daye, who has been starting at small forward in Ballard's absence, also played at both back court positions Saturday.

Daye's versatility could be a pivotal factor in Shue's roster decisions. It also would allow Shue to slowly bring along rookie Tom Sewell, a No. 1 draft choice. The Bullets got Sewell with the idea that he would complement Gus Williams.

With Williams and Robinson out for eight days, it has been almost like treading water for Shue, waiting for the real Bullets to surface.