The Washington Bullets acquired second-year guard Byron Irvin from the Sacramento Kings late yesterday afternoon for veteran guard Steve Colter, after reaching the 12-man regular season roster limit earlier in the day by releasing free agents Tony Harris and Sam Jefferson.

Irvin, 23, was the 22nd pick in the 1989 draft by Portland. He played sparingly for the Trail Blazers last year, averaging 5.2 points in 50 games, and was dealt to the Kings last Aug. 1 in the Danny Ainge trade. The Kings were not happy with the shape in which he came to camp, but they weren't aware that he had sprained his ankle July 17 and was in a soft cast two days before the deal was made.

Colter, 28, was the Bullets' backup point guard last season, but with Ledell Eackles holding out, he had played some off guard in the preseason. His statistics fell last season to 4.9 points and two assists in 13 minutes from 6.7 points and nearly three assists in 17.8 minutes in 1988-89.

Colter wanted more playing time last season, and he and Coach Wes Unseld didn't see eye to eye on the matter. Unseld wanted Colter to be more aggressive offensively, and he did have some scoring skills. In the offseason, Washington told Colter to make a deal if he wanted to go elsewhere, according to a team source, but he didn't do so.

"It's probably better for everyone involved," Colter said last night. "They'll get a natural two guard in Byron Irvin. We're stacked with guards here. I had heard over the summer that I was a tradeable commodity and there were seven or eight teams that were interested in me. And I get to go back to the West Coast {he's from Phoenix and played in Portland the first two years of his career} and run.

"What happened last year is in the past. I came in with the attitude that I was going to be a focal point of this team. I think Wes {Unseld} and {General Manager} John Nash saw that. But business is business. You're going to get traded in this league. I'm grateful to the Bullets for what they've done for me."

Said Jerry Reynolds, Sacramento's director of player personnel: "We felt we needed some more help at the point. With {rookie} Travis Mays being hurt a little bit, we had Rory Sparrow as the only backup at {age} 32, and that wasn't the way we wanted to go into the season."

For the moment, Washington's back court includes Darrell Walker, rookie A.J. English, Irvin and free agents Haywoode Workman and Larry Robinson. With Pervis Ellison and rookie center Greg Foster also on the squad, the Bullets have changed half of their roster from the team that finished 31-51 last season.

But the Bullets have to decide what to do about John Williams. They are holding off on Williams's status until the last possible minute. They don't have to give the league their final roster until 6 p.m. Thursday.

It's almost certain the Bullets will place him on the league's suspended list for failing to rehabilitate his knee injury in a manner acceptable to them. They cannot place him on the regular injured list -- under which he'd have to miss at least five regular season games -- because he has yet to take the team's physical, and thus they technically have no medical proof he's injured.

"Let's wait and see," Nash said before the trade. "We'll cross that bridge Thursday at 6."

As of yesterday, the NBA had not been informed that Williams was on the suspended list. Only the Bullets can reinstate him once he's placed on that list. This is the same procedure under which players placed on the suspended list for drug and alcohol use are reinstated.

Eackles' status is simpler. He is a free agent, so he belongs to no one. The Bullets extended their qualifying offer to Feb. 1 earlier this month, and Eackles is free to sign that at any time, as did guard Kevin Gamble with the Celtics. But Eackles is holding out for substantially more than the 125 percent increase on his $250,000 salary of last season.

Either Workman or Robinson will go when the Bullets sign Eackles. They both know that.

"I'm going to take a deep breath and just look at it," said Robinson, the 6-foot-5 guard from Centenary who impressed with his quick pickup of the passing game offense and shooting touch. "I can't believe this has finally happened. There's a lot of things in between with people maybe coming back, but right now, I'm officially a member of the team."

He shot 17 of 30 (.567) in the final three preseason games; 26 of 46 (.565) for the preseason, getting to many of the same spots on the floor that Jeff Malone used to find. For someone who hasn't gone through such an offense, he was a quick study.

Workman got a reprieve from the basketball gods, who treated him cruelly last season. He was in Atlanta's camp, the 49th pick overall, and certain he was going to make the team when the last cuts were made. Instead, the Hawks went with free agent Sedric Toney, who had signed just before camp.

"A lot of my friends were calling me {this year}, asking me 'Are you going to make it?,' " Workman said. "I wanted to be positive so I said yeah, but in the back of my mind I thought, 'Here we go again.' I thought I would make the team because I got drafted. But they said they drafted me just because of my athletic ability. They said I wasn't at {NBA} level yet."

If he hadn't made it, he was going to go to Oklahoma City to play for the Oklahoma City Cavalry of the Continental Basketball Association.

"It was a great situation for me," he said. "The thing that was on my mind was I had to hit the outside shot. That was the only thing that concerned me. I knew I could play. I think that's what it's all about in the NBA. A point guard has to be able to hit the outside shot. I don't think I really did that but I overcame that by doing other things."

Knicks -- Waived C Earl Cureton.

Pacers -- Cut Fs Dyron Nix and Gary Plummer, C Greg Wiltjer.

Lakers -- Waived G Keith Smith.

Trail Blazers -- Cut G Shawn McDaniel, C Mark Bradtke, F Todd Mitchell.

Spurs -- Waived G Rick Calloway.

Nets -- Put F Roy Hinson on injured list.

Suns -- Put C Andrew Lang, F Ricky Blanton, G Negele Knight on IL.