Washington Bullets' owner Abe Pollin said yesterday he hopes to re-sign center Moses Malone, due to become a free agent at the end of this season.

"We negotiated with Moses and his agent all summer and we're negotiating now," Pollin said yesterday during a luncheon with editors and reporters at The Washington Post. "I would prefer to sign him. I want him to stay. I would like him to stay. He's got some years left."

Pollin said the number of years in a contract extension is one of the stumbling blocks in the talks between the Bullets and representatives for Malone, a 12-year all-star. Malone, 32, said earlier this season that he would be looking for a contract covering the next three or four seasons.

Currently sidelined with a chipped bone in his left wrist, he did not travel to Atlanta with the team for tonight's game against the Hawks at the Omni (WDCA-TV-20, 7:30 p.m.). The Bullets will be trying to halt a number of negative trends.

A victory would be their first against Dominique Wilkins, Glenn Rivers, et al. in nine games. It would also break a four-game road losing streak and help turn around a stretch in which Washington has lost five of its last six games.

Currently 2 1/2 games out of the eighth and last Eastern Conference playoff berth, it would appear that any chase for postseason play will have to be generated by the current members of the team. With the NBA trading deadline less than two weeks away, there are few indications the Bullets are close to any deals.

"In a situation like this you're always looking to help the team, but making a move just to make one doesn't interest me," said Coach Wes Unseld.

In assessing their team, Unseld and assistant Bill Blair have admitted the play of their point guards has concerned them the most. However, Unseld said that he's not aware of the Bullets being interested in any of the players currently being shopped around the league.

"I haven't heard anything about it at all," he said. "I won't speculate on what-ifs. If something solid comes, then I'll consider it.

"I'm not going to speculate about a guy being traded and then you go out and ask him to bust his butt for you later that night. I think it's unfair to the players you've got playing for you. On the other side, though, if something comes along that can help you, you've got to think about it."

General Manager Bob Ferry recently has been spending most of his time on the road scouting college players for the draft. During his luncheon yesterday, Pollin said that he has "faith" in his general manager and defended his own policy in recent years of making deals to ensure a playoff-quality team, even at the possible cost of continuity and cohesion.

"That's definitely a consideration," Pollin said. "But I don't like to lose. I told Ferry that I'm tired of finishing in the middle of the pack. I don't want to hit the bottom just to get a {high} No. 1 draft pick."

After the Bullets' last game, a 118-102 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday, Unseld said part of the reason the Bullets have lost each of the four closely contested games to the Cavaliers was because, although the Cavaliers are younger than the Bullets, "they've got guys who have played together for two years. We can't say that.

"I think we have to look back and assess our position and then make a decision {about making still more deals or standing pat}. We have to look at where we are, where we're going and what we want to do."