LOS ANGELES, NOV. 25 -- Think you're confused about the Washington Bullets' performances? Imagine what it's like for some of the players, particularly rookie guard Tyrone Bogues, a man accustomed to personal success.

"Four assists? I've never averaged four assists in my life; I've never averaged less than eight assists anywhere," Bogues said after the Bullets' 124-103 loss to Seattle last Saturday.

The all-time ACC leader in assists, Bogues has started all 10 of the Bullets' games, averaging 5.2 assists per contest. Apparently a greater concern, however, is the 5-foot-3 guard's shooting. In Tuesday's 100-83 loss to Utah, Bogues was two for seven from the field, a repeat of his performance against the SuperSonics. For the year, Bogues has made 19 of 52 shots, barely 36 percent of his field goal attempts.

Coach Kevin Loughery has said he doesn't mind if Bogues shoots, but that he has to be able to hit the open jumper. "He's a passer," said Loughery. "Right now, it's a situation where it looks like shooting isn't natural for him. His confidence has to be down a bit."

Bogues doesn't entirely disagree with that assessment. "I think I started out good, but I've gone into a three- or four-game slump," he said. "I'm letting distractions get to me. It's coming slowly, but I know I can play better.

"I've worried so much about running the team; it gets to you when things aren't going well. Then, I start to think that it's on my head and it really affects me. At times, I've felt like a robot out there, but I think I'm starting to do things naturally. I'm becoming more comfortable with the ball in my hands."

Center Moses Malone has long had a comfortable relationship with the ball, but there are signs that might be changing. Malone is shooting 42 percent from the field. If he were to end the season with that figure, it would be the seventh straight season his field goal percentage has dipped from the previous season. Fewer Free Throws

However, field goal percentage is hardly the only criterion Malone is judged by, given his penchant for offensive rebounding and dirty work in the low post against double- and triple teaming. Such diligence usually results in free throws and three-point plays. But that hasn't been the case in the last six games, leading some to suggest that officials are taking a different approach to Malone's game.

Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry disagrees, saying he "doesn't think there's a pattern. Moses is a player who draws a lot of attention -- some nights he gets the calls, some nights he doesn't. He's played well except for maybe the last {few} games. Going into those, he was shooting 46 percent, which is very presentable for him the way he works to get fouled."

But if those calls don't come, Malone and the Bullets come away empty-handed. While agreeing that consistency in calls has been lacking this season, Malone believes he sees a reason.

"I don't think I'm getting the calls when an opposing coach is in the papers before the game talking about how many free throws I'm shooting," he said. "The refs read that and then let stuff go."

Malone's high-water mark from the free throw line came when he hit 18 of 21 foul shots against the New York Knicks on Nov. 13. After that game, Knicks Coach Rick Pitino called the Washington center "the greatest actor since Paul Newman." Malone shot 23 free throws in the next game, a 113-109 decision over New Jersey that was the Bullets' last win. Since then, Malone hasn't shot more than 14 free throws a game. Bickerstaff: 'What Success?'

How does a coach deal with his team after it's had a sudden burst of success? If you're Bernie Bickerstaff of the Seattle SuperSonics, you pretend it never happened.

"What success? We won 39 games last season; we haven't done anything," said Bickerstaff, the former Washington Bullets assistant who helped parlay those 39 regular-season victories into a berth in the Western Conference finals against the eventual-champion Los Angeles Lakers.

This season, many have touted Seattle as the team to watch in the NBA, with predictions for a 50-win season commonplace. But Bickerstaff argues that's unrealistic.

"Last season's playoffs were nice, but we have to deal with ourselves and our own expectations," he said.

However, SuperSonics guard Dale Ellis is eager to show that, individually, "last season wasn't a fluke of some kind." After three seasons deep on the Dallas Mavericks' bench, Ellis joined the SuperSonics in 1986 and averaged 24.9 points, ninth best in the league, and won the NBA's most-improved-player award.

So far this season -- with opponents no longer taken by surprise -- Ellis is averaging more than 23 points per game. For the past two seasons, he has been a participant in the three-point-shooting contest held the day before the all-star game. This season, he's hoping he's come up enough in the world to play in the main event.