When the Boston Celtics come to sold-out Capital Centre tonight to face the Washington Bullets, chances are they will find Jeff Ruland watching from the sidelines. It has become a subject of debate how much longer Ruland will remain out, and some sources close to the center/forward suggest that he has been advised to sit out the rest of the season.

Ruland strained his left knee in a 99-89 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 24 and has not played in the six games since. One of the Bullets' team physicians, Dr. Stephen Haas, says that nearly two weeks of inactivity is normal for the type of injury Ruland has. But the five-year veteran -- perhaps already wary in a season in which he has suffered a sore back and a fractured and sprained ankle that was sprained again shortly after he returned to the team -- isn't as certain.

"No one knows my body better than I do, and I know that something's not right with the leg," said Ruland before the Bullets' 113-111 overtime win over the New York Knicks on Thursday. "I'm beginning to think that it's more than just a sprain."

Ruland bases his feelings on a similar injury he suffered at the conclusion of his junior year at Iona College. In the first half of a loss to Georgetown, he said he felt pain on the side of the left knee. After the game, he was examined and told to stay off the knee for two months.

"I did that and afterward, walking around was no problem, but whenever I ran there was this dull, burning sensation," he said. "A little while after that I had an arthroscope done to clean out a little chip. Right now I'm getting that same sensation that I did before."

According to Haas, there have been no signs that Ruland's injury has gone beyond the original problem. "Everyone gets concerned when they're not better immediately, but there's no reason to change the diagnosis," he said. "He's going through the normal healing process. We just have to wait and see how he responds to treatment."

Throughout the injuries that have afflicted Ruland for the better part of two seasons, Bullets Coach Gene Shue has taken a wait-and-see attitude. There are some close to Ruland, though, who believe he is being pressured by the team to return prematurely.

According to sources, one of those people is Ruland's agent, Bill Pollak, who is said to prefer that his client sit out the remainder of the season rather than risk permanent injury.

Pollak was in New York yesterday and could not be reached for comment. Ruland, however, denied the reports.

"The only thing my agent wants is for me to wait until I'm ready before I start to play. I came back too soon from the ankle injury, and he doesn't want that to happen again.

"I haven't spoken with him since Monday, though, and that was about getting a windshield fixed. Right now I'm just planning on getting better and going back out there to play."

Since the injury, Ruland has undergone a torturous rehabilitation routine that includes icing the knee, then stimulating it electrically, followed by application of heat, bicycle riding and treatment with a Cybex resistance machine. He said the initial swelling has dissipated, "but whenever I go out onto the court, I've got no lateral movement."

Ruland said his back and ankle are doing fine. "The ankle feels a lot better, and the back is great because I haven't been playing, so it's well-rested."