Although Moses Malone did not speak to the media after Tuesday night's 101-97 win over the New Jersey Nets at the Capital Centre, observers read plenty into his 26-point, 17-rebound effort in Wes Unseld's debut as the Bullets' coach.

Were the 10 points and eight rebounds he managed in the opening 12 minutes an indication of his approval of the coaching change from Kevin Loughery to Unseld? Was he telling his teammates that this is how it's going to be for the Bullets?

"I play the same way for all coaches. I won't change my game and I don't want coaches changing my game, either," Malone said yesterday after the Bullets' practice at Bowie State College. "I may make turnovers, I may make errors; I'm human. But I play 110 percent -- I don't care who the coach is. I have to play my game."

That's fine with Unseld, who said that Malone "is an integral part of what we're trying to do." Unseld said that when he took over as coach he had a talk with the center about what he expected from him.

"I told him I demand more of him than what's happened so far," Unseld said. "I told that to Jeff {Malone} and to Bernard King, too. I demand more of them because they're supposed to give more.

"We've asked Moses to do a lot of different things -- passing and setting picks -- that he hasn't been asked to do in the past.

"He played very hard last night. He's played hard a lot, done a lot of those things all year. I won't read anything into his game last night, but I hope it was a statement."

There have been times this season when Malone bristled, at least inwardly, at what he believed was a move by Loughery to curtail his role in Washington's offense. Now he says that he doesn't believe Loughery was trying to change his game.

"I'm a ballplayer that, when I've got it going, I like to keep it going," he said. "You have to let me keep it going; when you got a team down, then kill 'em . . . then you can make it easy.

On at least three occasions against the Nets, Malone finished off a Washington fast break, once on a dunk shot when he took off from outside the lane. Malone finished with four dunks, at least three more than he normally totals in a game.

"I had that many? No wonder my feet hurt -- somebody bring me some ice," he joked in the locker room yesterday. "You know, I got a problem. My little boy reads the paper, and I come home and he asks me why I never dunk in the games -- I tell him he should have checked me out in my younger days."

In his younger days, the sight of a ball, a rim and someone in the low post was all it took to get Malone going. His dunks against New Jersey, he said, represented an effort to improve his concentration and increase his production.

"The dunk is a high percentage shot and I think that when I go stronger to the basket I concentrate more," he said. "I decided I'd dunk the ball rather than keep missing layups. Before, when I was coming in, I'd think about dunking and then I'd change my mind and then I'd miss the shot."

Shortly before his dismissal, Loughery was considering complaining to the league about what he perceived was an intentional movement by officials to limit Malone's trips to the free throw line. Recently, a veteran NBA official called the idea of a conspiracy ludicrous.

"Think about it," the official said. "The way the game is played it would be impossible for us to go out there and say, 'There's the guy we're supposed to be watching. Now, is that the foul we're not supposed to be calling anymore, is that one?' The game is just played too fast to try to do something like that.

"Maybe a better question is, is Moses Malone the same player he was, say, five years ago?"

According to Malone, at age 32, "I still got it; I figure I can play three or four good years still. {Against the Nets} I was more aggressive and when I'm aggressive I play harder and I feel more comfortable. I can still do things {like dunk} when I feel like I want to do them, but I have to do them every night."