This is rebuilding. Get used to it.

The Washington Bullets are going through one of those agonizing stretches where victories are measured in development, confidence, anything but wins. This isn't good when you're in the NBA, but it's the Bullets' reality as they stumble through the early part of the season.

Washington is still waiting for Ledell Eackles, still waiting for John Williams. Without them the Bullets are averaging 97.4 points, tied for second worst in the league. Take Bernard King's 31.9 points out of the lineup and the other 11 Bullets are managing less than six points per man, on 42 percent shooting.

In Tuesday's 87-82 loss to Sacramento, despite 45 points by King, an amazing thing happened. Not one Bullets guard -- no point guard, no off guard -- scored from farther than three feet from the basket. Not one jumper, which might open things up for King and others down low. Nothing. That's why the Bullets need Eackles back.

After a light practice at Bowie State University yesterday, assistant coach Bill Blair wrote the numbers 17 and 15 on a piece of paper. He figured that even on their worst nights, that's how many Eackles and Williams would score. With 20 or so more points in the lineup -- obviously, some of that duo's points would mean someone else would score less -- the Bullets beat Sacramento, and maybe Philadelphia and Boston the week before.

Without those points, they're 2-7.

General Manager John Nash said yesterday that bringing in other players isn't the answer.

"It's going to take other guys ten days to two weeks to understand what we're doing," he said. "Byron Irvin is just picking it up now. By that time, hopefully Ledell will be in shape and have the proper conditioning. I think we're going to ride with the posse we have now. We're not as bad as we played {against the Kings} and we're probably not as good as we played against Chicago opening night. We're a team that can be competitive into the fourth quarter."

That, however, is exactly when Washington's offense breaks down. In their last three losses, the Bullets scored four, six and four points in the last six minutes. Whenever King touches the ball down the stretch, he is double- and sometimes triple-teamed. In that situation, it's as difficult to pass as to shoot.

And even if King does pass, who can he pass to? Pervis Ellison is shooting 33 percent, rookie A.J. English around 40 percent. Mark Alarie, Washington's best outside shooter the last couple of seasons, is shooting 38 percent and free agent Larry Robinson has scored just 20 points the last four games.

Darrell Walker is shooting 47 percent, but he is not an outside shooter. Of his 101 points, only six have come on outside jumpers. The only hope for a double-teamed King is that Harvey Grant is left open across the floor, which involves a dangerous pass, or that Charles Jones is open under the basket. And King refuses to force shots.

"On every team, there are go-to people," King said. But "I've always been the sort of player where if a man's open, he's open, and they get the ball, whether it's the third quarter or the fourth quarter. If a man's open in a position where I know he can score, I get him the basketball.

"If I see the team is struggling as a whole and I know a specific player has not been shooting the ball well, then I may take it upon myself to take the shot as opposed to passing it. That really depends on what's flowing that night."