Washington Bullets center Moses Malone suffered a chipped bone in his left wrist in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game. He will miss tonight's 7:30 game against the New Jersey Nets at Capital Centre and will be out from five to seven days, the team announced.

The starting center for the Eastern Conference, Malone hit the floor a number of times during the game. Afterwards he was seen icing the wrist. The soreness and swelling, he said, caused him to miss three free throws in the contest.

The latest diagnosis came yesterday afternoon after the Bullets originally announced that Malone's injury was a sprain that would put his availability on a day-to-day basis. Later in the day, Coach Wes Unseld talked to team physician Steve Haas who told the coach Malone's injury was more serious than originally thought.

"It's not the best way to start the second half but these things happen and we have to go on," Unseld said.

Unseld said the Bullets would start Manute Bol, their 7-foot-6 reserve. "But I don't think we'd make a lot of changes otherwise," he said.

Malone's injury put a damper on what was, for the most part, an enjoyable weekend. Their status as all-star teammates did little to quell the verbal gamesmanship of Malone and Philadelphia's Charles Barkley. After the East team practice last Saturday, the two engaged in some good-natured ribbing, initiated by the Bullets' center.

"Charles, you said the 76ers are gonna win 50 games?"

"That's right."

"Charles, in how many seasons?"

Undaunted, Barkley had a snappy comeback of his own.

"Moses, you guys won 10 straight games {actually eight of 10} and you're still eight games under .500. But that was a good run; maybe you should fire your coach once every month."

That isn't going to happen, especially now that Unseld, for so many years a part of the Bullets organization, is the current job holder. Unseld won't be fired but he may throw his hands up in the air and walk away in disgust if the team is unable to overcome the foibles that have led to its current three-game losing streak.

In losing to Cleveland twice and the New York Knicks by a total of seven points, Washington continued the hard play that has characterized the team since Unseld's hiring last month. But they fell short because of untimely mental and physical lapses.

"I would still rather be in that position -- where you're that close to winning or losing a game -- than to not be close at all," Unseld said. "We've been losing because we're not playing well. When I first took over, I wanted to just try to get the players to play hard. Now they see that if they do, we'll be in most games. Now we want to start winning them."

Steady, consistent performances from their point guards are one aspect that would help the Bullets achieve their goal. Steve Colter is the team's starter but he rarely plays more than 10 to 15 minutes per game. Frank Johnson is now considered an off guard, so Tyrone Bogues has been getting the majority of time at the point.

The 5-3 rookie matched his career high of 16 points and added 12 assists in a 128-126 overtime loss to Cleveland on Jan. 30, but in his last two games, Bogues has hit just three of 12 shots, scored seven points and had five assists.

"We've got what we've got there," said Unseld. "Muggsy {Bogues} has done a good job and I'm hoping to get more production from Steve. I also hope that Darrell Walker can give us a lift."

Walker has played sparingly since suffering a severely sprained ankle against Chicago on Dec. 19. In two appearances during the week leading into the all-star break, Unseld said, it was obvious Walker wasn't "anywhere near ready to play."

That has hurt Washington, particularly on defense, where opponents have started to post up Bogues. Walker, 6-4 and a strong defensive player, would likely eliminate that option.

And his defensive prowess will be needed right away. After tonight's game, the Bullets will play 10 of their next 11 games on the road.

"All that I want to see is for us to continue improving on the progress that we've made," Unseld said. "We're playing hard every night, now we have to play well."