Instead of practicing yesterday, the struggling Washington Bullets held a team meeting, after which Coach Kevin Loughery met individually with several players -- including center Moses Malone, who Thursday night complained about his lack of involvement in the team's offense.

Loughery and Malone talked 40 minutes, after which Malone declined comment. Loughery would not divulge specifics of their conversation.

"It's confidential stuff," the coach said. "I just wanted to let the players talk, to see where they're coming from."

After Thursday's 102-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Malone complained that his role in the offense is the most limited "since I've been in the NBA." Loughery said yesterday that the addition of forward Bernard King "may have caused his shots to go down some, but I don't know if it's not getting him the ball as much as the double- and triple-teaming he gets."

Loughery added that the team "has a lot of stuff to get ironed out," another reason for the meetings. "How long this will go on, I don't know. I wanted to make sure that the players felt we're getting the ball to them in the right areas, to make sure that they're comfortable in the system."

He said the biggest problem for the Bullets, who are 4-10 entering tonight's game against the Seattle SuperSonics at Capital Centre, is "the double-teaming we get in the low post and our inability to make the outside shot." Against the Hawks, the Bullets shot 18 percent in the second quarter and 26 percent in the first half, falling behind, 45-30. In the second half, they rallied, largely because guards Jeff Malone and Tyrone Bogues shot well from outside.

"What happened differently in the second half?" Loughery mused. "Muggsy made the jumpers. Jeff made the jumpers. That'll be the case all season -- you don't have to be an expert to see how teams will play us."

Loughery said that he's also not happy with the production of the team's front court players, particularly those on the first team, which in turn has led to an uncertain rotation among the team's players.

"We've got to have the first unit producing -- as a group, not just one guy," said Loughery. "The second unit has played well but the first group of guys has to have more of an impact on the game."

As for Moses Malone, 32, there is no question that at times he no longer resembles the player who has won three NBA MVP awards, made the all-star team for 10 straight seasons and almost singlehandedly carried one team (the 1981 Houston Rockets) to the league finals and another (the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers) to the championship. In those days, he was unstoppable, bulling his way to the basket for easy points. If he did miss the shot, chances are he was fouled.

That was easier to do before double- and triple-teaming defenses became common, along with lineups that put two seven-footers on the court together. Although Malone remains the league's premier offensive rebounder, he takes his initial shot under more duress. If he can beat one man to the backboard, there's now a second player, perhaps even bigger, ready to help screen him out.

"Double-teaming has changed the game for him in the last three or four years," said one Eastern Conference coach. "Teams are coming at him in hordes now."

Bill Blair, the Bullets assistant coach who had a similar position with the New Jersey Nets, recalls that "we started double-teaming him in my second season there. I'm sure we weren't the only ones to do it, but not many teams did." Philadelphia won its championship in 1982-83, but that was the last season in which Malone shot 50 percent.

Now on a team with two other players with all-star experience -- Bernard King and Jeff Malone -- Moses Malone has been asked to help keep the basketball moving to help keep everyone happy.

In the Bullets' first six games this season, he shot 106 times and averaged 26.6 points. But in the eight games since then, he has only totaled 96 shots and averaged 15.6 points. On Nov. 25 against the Los Angeles Clippers he scored two points, on foul shots. One of the smallest teams in the NBA, the Bullets' poor front court defense has led to increased minutes for 7-6 shotblocker Manute Bol, often at the expense of Malone's time on the floor. In those same eight games, Malone has averaged 29.5 minutes.

"I think I should be more involved {in the offense}," he said Thursday. "I'm not worried about scoring -- I can do other things to try and help the team win -- but we haven't been winning. I think I have to become more aggressive, come down and take the shot when I've got it. This laying back, trying to be Magic Johnson, ain't gonna work."

He contends, and teammates have agreed, that most of the plays called by Loughery -- particularly at the start of games -- are run for King and Jeff Malone, who have taken 200 and 233 shots, respectively. The center has told friends that he's only been able to get shots after crashing the offensive boards.

The Washington coaches say there are mitigating factors in the plays that are run for Moses Malone. "You can't keep running the same plays," said Blair. "The other teams all know them." Others in the organization have said that Malone could make things easier for himself offensively if he'd consistently kick the ball back out to the Bullets' guards or players cutting to the basket when he's double-teamed in the low post. If that doesn't happen, they argue, teams know that open players aren't really going to be a threat to score and they'll go after Malone harder.

Malone said on Thursday that the team's poor shooting from the perimeter has eliminated that threat anyway and that, if the team isn't winning, something else should be tried -- like making him the focal point.

"The hardest thing for a coach and a team to deal with is when you surround the player who's been 'The Man' with better players," said Atlanta Coach Mike Fratello. "Every one of those guys think they can carry you, but now the game has to be spread out. One guy thinks he can do it with 25 shots a night but there are two other guys who think the same thing."

76ers 118, SuperSonics 105:

Charles Barkley scored 36 points leading Philadelphia to victory over visiting Seattle.

Hawks 139, Nets 102:

Reserve guard John Battle scored 27 points, 16 of them in the second quarter, as Atlanta, at home, won its fourth straight game.

Pistons 128, Celtics 105:

In front of 34,523 in the Pontiac Silverdome, Isiah Thomas scored 13 of his 20 points in a key second-quarter surge to lead Detroit over Boston. Boston's Larry Bird topped all scorers with 27 points. Adrian Dantley had 21 and Vinnie Johnson 18 for the Pistons.

Cavaliers 108, Pacers 90:

Brad Daugherty scored 16 of his 28 points in the third quarter, sparking Cleveland over Indiana in Indianapolis. Chuck Person scored 19 points to pace Indiana.

Mavericks 116, Warriors 95:

In Dallas, Mark Aguirre and Roy Tarpley triggered a third-quarter run to send the Mavericks past Golden State.

Jazz 104, Knicks 92:

Thurl Bailey scored a career-high 31 points to lead Utah in Salt Lake City.

Nuggets 105, Bulls 89:

In Denver, Alex English scored 21 points to hand Chicago its fourth loss of the season.

Clippers 98, Kings 84:

Quintin Dailey scored 19 points in Los Angeles to help beat Sacramento.