Rarely has a released basketball player been as happy as Cedric Maxwell, who got his walking papers from the Washington Bullets yesterday. He left whistling a tune, looking ahead to the holiday seasons in Charlotte, N.C., with his pregnant wife Renee and little Morgan Maxwell, 2 years old and already having Halloween parties.

The Bullets are back to a 14-player roster, and still have two more moves to make before opening the regular season Saturday night against Chicago. Meanwhile, center Dave Feitl and rookie forward Harvey Grant were dreading the financial treats they'll give to the league office for fighting Rick Mahorn and Larry Bird, respectively, last weekend.

With Grant's improving play against Detroit on Friday and Boston on Saturday, when the rookie scored 20 points in 22 minutes on 10 of 13 shooting, Maxwell became expendable. Forward Mark Alarie, whom Coach Wes Unseld mentioned as one needing more playing time as the season approaches, looks to have locked up a spot, though Unseld pointed out he never said the third-year man's job was in jeopardy.

The team was happy with Maxwell's condition, though the forward has been bothered with tendinitis in his right knee and had appeared in just three of Washington's eight exhibition games, scoring a total of seven points. He was acquired from Houston Oct. 6 for forward Jim Grandholm.

"I wasn't disappointed," Unseld said of Maxwell. "I guess I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't seen a lot of him in the last couple of years. He understood very well what I was thinking. We brought him in because we thought he might be able to help us. But Harvey's come on, and it's important that we start getting Alarie some more practice time before Saturday. It's just a thing of not holding a guy around just for nothing."

Said Maxwell: "I kind of feel, in a way, a little relieved. I hadn't played that much. Given the opportunity, I think I probably could have played, but I understand Wes' situation. He has to go with the young kids, and I think it's a young movement now. {It could have worked out with} a team that wanted me. I felt in the beginning that basically I was here under the salary cap thing, anyway, so it gives them an opportunity . . . my cash flow isn't big right now, but the numbers are big, so I was good to bring in so far as the salary cap is concerned."

Last season Maxwell made $550,000 for Houston, and Washington likely is taking up some of the slack in his contract this season. That would help to sop up some of the near $1 million the Bullets can play around with before reaching the league salary cap. Maxwell wouldn't say how much the Bullets are contributing to his retirement fund, only that the checks will be coming in regularly for the next couple of years.

"My wife is having our second child in a month," he said, "and I'll be there. I'm going to actually start to be an actual human being, a productive citizen. I'll get a chance to vote in a primary, everything I've always kind of thought about. I'm going to be home for Christmas, I'm going to be home for Thanksgiving."

Maxwell said he's retired now and will go back to UNC-Charlotte, where he matriculated, to take a couple of courses -- a little Italian maybe, some foreign art classes -- in case he may be convinced to join one of the big-money teams in Europe next year.

"I just can't envision that things have worked out as well as they have," he said. "I have no regrets toward the Bullets at all. The only thing I felt unfortunate about was being put into a situation of not really belonging once I came here. I knew that we had seven, eight, nine forwards."

The next move may be to pare one of the Joneses. Charles A. Jones, the forward picked up Friday off waivers, must show what he can do in the next few practices. Unseld praised a couple of things done Friday, but he hasn't seen enough of the new Jones yet and he's not going to wait long.

"The problem with him now," Unseld said, "is that he's probably in pretty good condition for a basic offense, but with the stuff we're running, and the degree that we're trying to push the ball, it's hard to tell. So I will give him a couple more, three more days, to see if he can really help us."

Said "old" Charles Jones, laughing over his shoulder: "I was here first."

If C.A. Jones doesn't pan out, that leaves backup center Chris Engler or fifth guard Dominic Pressley with the last roster spot, unless a trade is made or someone is injured.

On the fight front, Feitl said he was just slapped on the wrist by the league office, and no figures were mentioned. Grant was musing over lost money, having spoken with Security Director Horace Balmer. But NBA Director of Operations Rod Thorn said no fines have been levied as yet and he didn't expect any decision until Wednesday. Feitl and Grant were each automatically fined $250 by the league for being ejected.

Unseld backed his players, and General Manager Bob Ferry said, when asked if teams were trying to be tough on Washington, that it's not unusual for the ex-Bullet Mahorn to be involved in a fight "for any kind of reason."

"That was just a flare-up between two individuals one night and two individuals the other night," Unseld said. "I happen to think my guys were right in what they did, what happened. I reviewed the films and I really can't find any problem with what they did."