The Washington Bullets are in the process of placing center Jeff Ruland on the five-game injured list and replacing him on the roster with former Bullet Don Collins. Ruland, meanwhile, acknowledged that the thought "had crossed my mind" that he may not be able to play the rest of the season.

According to General Manager Bob Ferry, Collins, who played for the Bullets from 1981 to 1983 and was waived by the Golden State Warriors earlier this season, is en route to Washington from parts unknown. Although the maneuver is almost a foregone conclusion, Ferry said yesterday that "nothing is done until it gets done."

The Bullets will play the New Jersey Nets tonight (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:30) at East Rutherford, N.J.

Ruland has missed 25 of the past 26 Bullets games because of a strained right shoulder that was initially injured Jan. 14 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since that time, the center's status has been listed as "day to day." According to team doctors, there has never been any indication as to how long it would take the injury to heal.

During Monday night's 119-112 victory over the Chicago Bulls, however, Ferry said he spoke again with the team physicians, who told him that nothing suggested Ruland would be able to play within the next five games. In that case, Ferry said, "Why not pick up someone who may be able to help us?"

The Bullets acquired Collins from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for guard Wes Matthews and waived him before the start of the 1983-84 season, Ferry said. "He's a good player, who did a good job while he was here."

Ruland, who was informed of the team's plan yesterday, agreed with the doctors' assessment, saying it would, "take a miracle for me to play within the next five games." Ruland wasn't scheduled to accompany the team to New Jersey for tonight's game, instead remaining in the area to have a set of X-rays taken on the shoulder and to continue therapy.

When asked what he thought of the move to place him on the injured list, Ruland answered with a question of his own, "What am I supposed to think? It's probably the best move for the good of the team." Ruland also said that the thought that he might actually be unable to play for the remainder of the season, "has crossed my mind.

"The thing is, though, that you can't give up hope. I'm going to go to therapy and try to get better."

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Bullets find themselves facing the Nets with third place in the NBA's Atlantic Division at stake.

When they fell to the Nets, 100-98, March 1 at Capital Centre, it marked the start of a little game of musical standings, with both teams hovering around the .500 mark. At the moment, the Bullets (33-32) lead New Jersey (32-33) by one game.

Judging from their records over the past few weeks, it would appear that the Nets have been progressing and Washington slipping, but things haven't been as rosy for the Nets as one might think. The Bullets have a 7-12 record over their last 19 games, as opposed to New Jersey's 12-7, but the Nets have dropped three of their last four.

After the team lost, 126-113, to the Dallas Mavericks Sunday, it was reported in the Newark Star Ledger that some members of the team were unhappy with the play of guard Micheal Ray Richardson and center Darryl Dawkins.

According to one player, who wished to remain nameless, Richardson was taking far too many shots for the good of the team, while Dawkins, who has missed much of the season with back problems, needed to assert himself more on the backboards. Forward Buck Williams added that the same things were happening during the time the Nets were winning 11 of 14 games, but were magnified by the recent losses.