Perhaps no one had awaited yesterday as eagerly as Bernard King, who made his first appearance with his new NBA teammates.

King, 30, drove to Washington Saturday night from his home in New Jersey. At midnight, shortly after his arrival in the area, King officially became a member of the Bullets when the New York Knicks' right of first refusal to retain him expired. At that time, the free-agent forward became a Bullet under the terms of the reported two-year, $2.2 million offer sheet given him by the club on Oct. 16.

"I'm anxious about this but I'm looking forward to it. It should be exciting," said King before his first practice with the Bullets at Fort Meade. "I may start slowly, but in the final analysis you should see a tremendous player, or at least one capable of helping the team."

A three-time NBA all-star, King was the league's leading scorer in the 1984-85 season, averaging 32.9 points per game. In March of that year, however, he suffered a major injury to his right knee and he has played in just six games since, those coming at the end of last season.

In that comeback test the now 10th-year pro averaged 22.7 points for the Knicks. That easily surpassed the output of any of the Washington front court players, one reason the Bullets were willing to take such a financial gamble on the stability of King's knee and one reason Coach Kevin Loughery spent much of yesterday's workout smiling.

"He's an artist and he works extremely hard," said Loughery, who coached King in his first two NBA seasons with the New Jersey Nets. "Last year, everyone concentrated on two of our players {center Moses Malone and guard Jeff Malone}, particularly down the stretch. We definitely needed another scorer."

Heading into yesterday's practice, King displayed the confidence that has characterized his career and obviously fueled his return from an injury considered the worst that could happen to the knee. King answered question after question about his knee, saying, "There's no pain, no swelling from when I work out.

"I averaged 38 minutes a night in those six games I played, it wasn't like I was out there for 10 or 12 minutes. I don't think players in the NBA play for 45 to 48 minutes a night -- no player needs to play that much. But if the coach asks me, I'm physically and mentally able to do that."

Although he said he's not certain that King is in game shape, Loughery said he may use him "for a few minutes" in tonight's final exhibition game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at George Mason's Patriot Center. Just how much King is used after the beginning of the regular season on Friday could depend on a number of other moves the Bullets are said to be considering.

According to one Eastern Conference coach, the Bullets are interested in acquiring Milwaukee guard Ricky Pierce. The NBA's Sixth Man award winner last season, Pierce is holding out in a bid to improve his Bucks contract. He made approximately $250,000 last season -- and is looking for at least $750,000 for this season.

"They're trying to make a lot of trades, talking a lot of big deals," a Bucks official who asked not to be named said of the Bullets. "We've talked with them off and on about a few things, the last time on Friday. Ricky's name has come up a lot."

A little more than two weeks ago, it was rumored that Pierce would come to the Bullets via a three-way trade also involving the Denver Nuggets. The Pierce portion of that scenario had Milwaukee giving him to Washington after getting Denver forward/center Dan Schayes.

On Saturday night, however, Nuggets President Pete Babcock said that although a number of teams -- including Milwaukee -- had expressed interest in Schayes recently, any possible deals have been called off because of a lack of agreement regarding compensation.

Babcock added that if his team was to trade the 6-foot-10 Schayes, it would "have to get some size in return." That's one thing Milwaukee could provide but, apart from centers Manute Bol and Moses Malone, it's something the Bullets are decidedly lacking.

Two weeks ago, it was said the Nuggets were interested in Jeff Malone and either Tyrone Bogues or Michael Adams, his fellow Bullets guards. Washington has long been interested in Denver point guard Lafayette Lever.

On Oct. 23, Babcock flew to Washington to see the Bullets play the Los Angeles Lakers, in "an attempt to see if anything could fit between us . . . but we came away thinking there's nothing we can do."

According to NBA sources, that's for a number of reasons. One is that the Nuggets have become increasingly reluctant to give up Lever, who made second-team all-NBA last season. Babcock said Saturday that Lever "has gotten even better than he was last year. We didn't think that was possible. For us to give him up now, we would have to get someone much better in return."

If the Nuggets should keep Lever, there would be less of a need for Bogues or Adams because Denver already has a diminutive guard -- Mike Evans -- playing in reserve at the point.

Similarly, the Bullets have become increasingly reluctant to give up Jeff Malone. He was a focal point of Washington talks with Denver during the June draft, but sources say the Bullets aren't including the two-time all-star in any talks now.

That's not to say that couldn't change, particularly if the Bullets could acquire Pierce. Babcock said the Bullets and Denver "seem to have a direct line between us and we're always kicking ideas around.

"Now that they have King, maybe a John Williams or a Jay Vincent would become more available. They might call and say they're in a better position to move someone, so what could we do now. But that call hasn't come yet."

According to the Eastern Conference coach, it may happen soon.

"Now that they've got King, the deals are gonna start to happen for them. Just watch."