The Washington Bullets yesterday signed point guard Ennis Whatley, a former first-round draft choice, to a 10-day contract to bolster their ailing team and provide depth in the back court.

Whatley, recently cut by the Cleveland Cavaliers, probably will be a backup to Gus Williams when the Bullets play at New York tonight at 7:30.

Bullets Coach Gene Shue said signing a point guard became imperative when Frank Johnson fractured a metatarsal bone in his left foot Saturday night against New Jersey and Williams was out with the flu. The Bullets had only eight players in uniform Monday night when they lost to Indiana, 97-80.

"The reason we lost the game is because we didn't have a point guard," Shue said. "Darren (Daye) is out, too (with the flu). He might have been able to help out. He's played some back there."

Daye did not practice yesterday and is questionable for tonight's game. Williams and Kenny Green, both out the last three games with flu, did return, although Williams said he felt weak.

"We have to pull together now," Williams said. "Last year, the same thing happened to us. We started playing well and people went down with injuries."

The Bullets also are without center Jeff Ruland, who has a fractured ankle. Yesterday, the beleaguered team ran through its fast break with Williams playing point guard on the first team and Whatley playing the point on the second team.

"I think it's tough to come into (an injury) situation like this," Whatley said. "But I'm going to try to do the best job I can."

Whatley, 23, was at home in Birmingham when Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry contacted him early in the week. Before he was released by Cleveland, he had scored 22 points in eight games. Before being traded to Cleveland, he played two seasons with Chicago, averaging 8.4 points per game in 1983-84 and 5.0 in 1984-85.

After two seasons at the University of Alabama, Whatley, who is 6 feet 3, was selected 13th in the first round of the 1983 draft by Kansas City and went to Chicago in a draft-day trade.

"He was highly thought of as a player coming into the league," Shue said. "(The 10-day contract) is a good opportunity for us to see what he can do."

Whatley is one of two players on the Bullets' roster with a 10-day contract. Freeman Williams, a shooting guard, was signed Dec. 27. League rules permit teams to sign players to two consecutive 10-day contracts, but after that, a permanent contract must be offered or the player is released.

"When we bring a player in, we do it with the idea it's going to be permanent," Shue said. "It (the 10-day contract) is a way of bringing in a player when you have an injury."

A permanent move likely will be made soon. Johnson is likely to be out of the lineup eight to 10 weeks.

Meanwhile, Whatley will get a crash course in the Bullets' pattern offense, something he seemed to pick up quickly at yesterday's practice at Bowie State College.

"I've been in several offenses where I ran the point," he said. "I'm a point guard. It's my job to find people and distribute the ball.

"Right now, the first thing I can think of is getting the call. I'm happy to be back in the league. It's like a New Year's gift. Ten days, or one day, it's better than being at home." 76ers 121, Trail Blazers 119:

Moses Malone scored seven of his 35 points in overtime at Portland as Philadelphia won its eighth straight.

Cutting a 118-113 lag to 120-119, the Trail Blazers had a chance to win after Philadelphia's Clemon Johnson missed a pair of free throws with 10 seconds to play. Clyde Drexler sank what appeared to be the winning basket at :04, but was called for traveling.