NEW YORK, NOV. 7 -- The last thing the Washington Bullets need is an angry Patrick Ewing. The New York Knicks' center does enough damage as it is. But with the Bullets coming to town for a 7:30 game Thursday, the big man is in a bad mood, bogged down by contractual demands and a two-game home losing streak.

The hangover that the league can't take enough aspirin for -- John "Hot Rod" Williams's $26.5 million contract -- has hit Ewing as well, and he's not happy. He wants his 10-year, $31 million contract renegotiated. The Knicks (1-2) are trying to hold enough in reserve so they won't be handcuffed by the salary cap for years to come, and satisfy Ewing as well.

But Ewing, who is making $3.3 million this season, has a clause in his contract that would make him a restricted free agent after this season if he isn't one of the four highest-paid players in the league. Currently, three players -- Williams, Akeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan -- make more, and a fourth, Indiana guard Reggie Miller, is about to join them.

Ewing said he was "insulted" by it all and told the New York Post: "I could be in a Bullets uniform next year. Who knows?"

This is about as likely to happen as Dalmatians flying backward in your living room, for two reasons. First, even if he would become a restricted free agent, the Knicks would have the right of first refusal and could match any offer. Second, not only could they match, they would.

What could be interesting is if Ewing became restricted and didn't negotiate with the Knicks. They would then be obligated to produce a one-year contract extension at 125 percent of his current salary. He could sign that deal, play the year, then be an unrestricted free agent in 1992.

At any rate, he will be in a Knicks uniform tonight. He was dominant against the Bullets last season, averaging 35.2 points on 59 percent shooting in five games. That included two 41-point efforts, a 37 and a 35. He also got to the foul line more than 10 times per game.

Though the Bullets appear to be much quicker this season, Coach Wes Unseld said he wouldn't automatically wed himself to double-teaming Ewing.

"The problem with double-teaming is that somebody's going to be open," Unseld said. "That doesn't change no matter who you play. It just changes who's sitting out there if they get the ball to that open man. In the case of the Knicks, it's either Gerald Wilkins or {Mark} Jackson. Then all that could go to pot and we'd probably have to change it.

"The other thing is that Patrick usually takes the ball quicker over double-team defenses. That was the problem with double-teaming him. We couldn't hold the initial post position every time we doubled."

The Bullets will start Charles Jones against him. Jones gives away about three inches and 40 pounds to Ewing. It's a mammoth task for anyone, and since the Knicks' half-court offense involves Ewing handling the ball almost every possession, there's never a break.

"I just have to go out and play him, bump him, try to get away with as much as possible," Jones said. "A guy like that, he's definitely going to the post and they'll probably pound the ball into him all night long. We're going to have to keep pressuring him all the time. When he gets to the free throw line you really have to start bumping him, because he's going right to the post."

Jones has some techniques he likes to use against Ewing, such as initiating contact by pressing his leg into the back of Ewing's knee, then stepping back. Sometimes it works, and Ewing goes toppling.

It won't take long to find out.

"You'll be able to tell what you can do and what you can't," Jones said, "Like using the leg and the forearm in the back, how much {the officials} will let me use. If they take that away from you, you're in trouble. You might as well get out of his way."

Washington (1-1) has a modest goal in this game. A road win over a good team has been rare the last couple of seasons. But the Bullets are coming off an impressive victory over Chicago at home Saturday, and four days off have given guard Darrell Walker (tendinitis in both heels) and center Pervis Ellison (sprained ankle) time to recover.

Walker will start; Ellison will play, but no one knows how much. Of course, being with Sacramento last season, oft-injured Ellison saw little of Eastern Conference play, and none of Ewing.

"It's always going to be something different," Ellison said. "I only played against two Eastern Conference teams, so I guess I would have to go around to each team, at least the first time, and get an understanding of what they're trying to do offensively and defensively."