Gus Williams, whose sprained ankle has kept him from practicing for 10 days, said yesterday he hopes to play in the Washington Bullets' season opener Friday night in Chicago.

Although he will not resume practicing until Thursday, Williams ran two miles on a treadmill yesterday. That was his first exercise since he sprained his left ankle Oct. 13.

Williams walked into Murphy Field House at Fort Meade with more bounce in his step and, more importantly, with little limp. He changed into sweatclothes, watched practice, shot some at a side basket, then soaked his ankle in a tub of ice water.

"I found out two things -- I'm out of shape now and the ankle was pretty sore," he said of his morning spent at the Sports Rehabilitation Center in Chevy Chase. "But it's a big improvement over a week ago."

Asked if he could play Friday, and how effective he could be, Williams replied, "I would hope so . . . There are different levels of being in shape: midseason form, playoff form. But for me to play effectively, it doesn't take long."

Williams said the doctors "know how anxious I am" to play and don't want him to come back too soon. "It's a day-to-day thing," he said. "It's a long season. So I don't want to overdo it and have to start over from square one."

There were other intriguing developments yesterday. Forward Cliff Robinson, also injured in the Oct. 13 exhibition game, returned to practice a day early, wearing a back support and feeling chipper. Mainly for Robinson's benefit, Coach Gene Shue spent most of the workout reviewing plays and fine-tuning their execution.

But no decision on whether Robinson starts Friday will be made until Shue sees how the 6-foot-9 forward's back holds up in scrimmages today and Thursday.

Jeff Ruland, the team's all-star forward, did not practice because of a sore left knee. He said he injured it in pregame warmups on a slippery floor in Miami Monday.

But Ruland played 30 minutes and is expected to practice today. He has had soreness in that knee in the past, especially after playing four games in five nights, as he just did.

In another development, Shue said he was not including small forward Greg Ballard in his plans for the first two games, Friday and Saturday. Ballard, the team's starting small forward the past five seasons, remains an unsigned free agent.

The sides apparently are close to a deal. But yesterday, Larry Fleisher, Ballard's attorney, said, "Things have not been fully resolved. We should know one way or the other tomorrow (Wednesday)." Fleisher declined to discuss the remaining issues.

General Manager Bob Ferry seemed perplexed that an agreement hasn't been reached. "I don't know what can be resolved that can make any difference," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, there is no issue. I don't know what the holdup is."

Said Fleisher, "There are always holdups when there are compromises."

Ballard rejected an offer by the team last season in order to test the free agent market. But he, along with 37 of the league's 45 other free agents, did not receive an offer sheet from another team.

Robinson, who had been suffering from a shoulder injury as well as back spasms, said, "I ran the treadmill (for two miles) yesterday. It's a trip. I felt guilty for being hurt. Everybody's working hard, and I got hurt. It made me feel bad. Today I felt good for being out there. Because of my back I was cautious today.

"We didn't do a lot of bumping. I felt I didn't need bumping my first day back. I appreciate Coach Shue's patience in my recovery. Tomorrow (Wednesday), I'll go all out and go for it, and see how it feels."

Shue said he tailored yesterday's practice mainly to Robinson in order to give him a review of the offense. "The other thing is that we've had a lot of games lately," Shue said, "and I really didn't want to run the players we have into the ground."

He said he would spend the next two days further refining the offense, since the Bullets ran few of their plays in a 2-4 preseason in which five of the team's top 10 players, including Ballard, missed 18 man-games.

Although Shue has yet to name his starting lineup, it appears that if Williams and Robinson are ready to play, they will be paired with Darren Daye at small forward, Dudley Bradley at second guard and Ruland at center . . . The Bullets will hold an autograph session in Farragut Square from noon to 2 today before holding a three-hour practice at Fort Meade . . . Guard Jeff Malone, who twisted his left ankle last Thursday, is expected to resume practice today. days further refining the offense, since the Bullets ran few of their plays in a 2-4 preseason in which five of the team's top 10 players, including Ballard, missed 18 man-games.

Although Shue has yet to name his starting lineup, it appears that if Williams and Robinson are ready to play, they will be paired with Darren Daye at small forward, Dudley Bradley at second guard and Ruland at center . . . The Bullets will hold an autograph session in Farragut Square from noon to 2 today before holding a three-hour practice at Fort Meade . . . Guard Jeff Malone, who twisted his left ankle last Thursday, is expected to resume practice today.