Bob Ferry is out as general manager of the Washington Bullets because he perceived he could no longer excite owner Abe Pollin with his ideas to rebuild the team; he perceived a lack of money, due to lack of fan support, that meant an inability to assemble a contender; he perceived that while the scouting report said one thing, the club (read: the owner) would occasionally do something different on draft day.

Ferry, the club's top basketball personnel man the last 17 years, indicated yesterday that he and Pollin did not agree on how the Washington Bullets -- out of the playoffs the last two years and without a first-round draft choice this year -- would try to rebuild.

Ferry saw the lack of money being the root of all the Bullets' evils; Pollin said he thought the team spent plenty. No wonder it was time for the two to part company.

"I wouldn't say I was handcuffed," Ferry said after a news conference. "But you know pretty well what to ask for and what not to ask for. I couldn't ask for and demand some things that this team might need for the future."

Pollin, sitting two feet away when Ferry made the remark, responded: "I normally don't disagree with my general manager, but money was never a factor in a player not coming here. We put in an offer of more than $1 million {a year} for Mark Price a couple of years ago. We never backed off because of money."

Even in a league with a salary cap, the teams that want to win, and not just pay lip service, open up their wallets. If Sam Perkins wants three million a year, and you don't have a draft choice, you better spend the three million. That, we sense from what Ferry suggested, is the kind of thing Pollin is reluctant to do, knowing attendance at Capital Centre has ranked at or near the bottom of the NBA the last two years.

Even when Ferry complimented Pollin -- and he did that many times during the news conference -- the issue of money crept into the conversation.

"In some ways, as I told him, Abe has been like a father to me in that I've always had to ask him for things, like you do your father," Ferry said. "Like money to buy a player."

Ferry did not say so, but the tone in his voice hinted strongly that a veteran general manager ought to be able to make decisions independent of cost. The league, with its salary cap, won't let you spend but so much anyway. Ferry said something else that makes sense: A lack of fan support has hurt this franchise in a big way.

"As I look back at the 16 years I've been here, I think the most disappointing thing -- and I don't think it was earned -- was the lack of fan support," Ferry said. "When we won the {1978} championship we had all we could do to market this team. It's been a struggle . . . You can't just expect to draw fans when you win championships; any sports city can do that. You need support all the time. That's been a tremendous pressure on myself and Mr. Pollin . . .

"It's always a factor in {personnel} decisions you make. You end up trying to do exciting things sometimes, instead of just the sound thing. You're intimidated because you know without fan support, you lack money to take big risks. I would say fan support creates money and money gives you freedom . . . freedom to make more mistakes. And in this business if you don't have freedom to make mistakes, you can't succeed, I don't care if you're the Detroit Pistons or the Lakers . . . Look at how many people they go through a year -- fringe players -- trying to fill one spot."

Here, the usually evasive Ferry has said a mouthful. If you spend enough money to bring in enough players, you might find that, say, Orlando Woolridge can help you. In 1987, Ferry didn't want to pick Muggsy Bogues in the first round, a long-shot pick by any standard. But Pollin thought Muggsy could put fans in his half-empty arena and mandated the pick.

When Ferry said you can criticize the Bullets' recent drafts, just don't criticize the team's ability to evaluate, we can only assume he means, "What I recommended and who we chose weren't always the same thing."

This season at Capital Centre, some season ticket holders were wearing buttons that sported slogans unkind to Ferry. Many thought that Ferry should have been fired long ago, and would have if he had been GM of the Knicks or 76ers or Celtics or Bulls, or in any town where people get passionate about the local team. But Pollin was loyal to Ferry, although Coach Wes Unseld's authority, according to sources, has grown considerably the past two years.

Another school of thought is that Ferry, if he has more money to work with, will do a better job for someone else. But it's been difficult to tell whether Pollin or Ferry deserves to shoulder more of the blame.

Ferry says he is not a victim of burnout, that he is ready for the phone to ring. The Bullets, meanwhile, need a personnel man to swing a deal in the two weeks before the draft. While other clubs are going after players, Pollin will be searching for a GM. The Bullets will be at a disadvantage. Again.