Gratitude is fine, Bernard King reasoned, but it was time to get compensated for his work. And the Washington Bullets, as expected, took care of King's immediate future by signing him to a contract extension sources have indicated is a two-year deal.

"The Washington Bullets stepped up at a time in my career when I was a question mark," King said at a Capital Centre news conference before last night's game with Golden State. "They stepped up {in 1987} when a lot of other teams were not willing to do so, and that's something I'll never forget. It's a debt I've paid in full with my play on the court."

King is the NBA scoring leader, the bright spot as the team got off to a stumbling start, his 30.2-point average before he bolstered it with 39 points last night all the more impressive because he's been his team's only legitimate scoring option.

As King pointed out yesterday, big scorers sometimes aren't appreciated for the other things they do. He's also high in assists and fourth in rebounds.

King's extension came on a day when guard Ledell Eackles was activated and rookie guard Larry Robinson was put on the injured list with tendinitis in his left ankle. The Bullets made the decision after Eackles, who had been slow to get into condition after his holdout, held up in a Monday afternoon workout and then in morning drills.

Bringing Eackles back into the fold will no doubt bring down King's numbers. King has consistently indicated that that's fine with him.

"I'd like to share some of these shots I'm taking," 26 per game, King said. "I'm not interested in leading the league in scoring. I just want to win some games. And that's only going to happen if we have Ledell Eackles and John Williams . . .

"If you look at these two players, in addition to what we currently have, I think the future's awfully bright. Your ultimate goal is to win a championship. If I didn't believe at some point in the next couple of years we could compete for that, I don't think I would have pressed staying in Washington as much as I did."

King had huddled with General Manager John Nash several times in the preseason. King's attorney, Bob Woolf, and Nash had three meetings in the last four weeks to hash out the details.

This came after King publicly expressed anger about not being given an extension on his two-year, $3.1 million contract that would expire after this season.

Nash said yesterday: "It seemed to me that rather than make a decision, it was best to observe the team for at least a short while. When it became apparent we weren't going to have John Williams for some time, we knew then it was going to be impossible to deal with all parts of this team.

"I can't say {King's performance} had nothing to do with it. The end result, I'm sure, would show some reflection of his great start. The contract is commensurate to that. I would say he's up there {in pay}."

Two years ago, when he signed his current deal, King would not say whether he'd complete his career in Washington. He still wasn't certain yesterday.

"I don't think it was any secret, my desire to remain in Washington, he said. "It's quite obvious what my talent level is, but the quick start probably made their decision easier. As a free agent, there's the insecurity of what kind of contract you'll be able to receive."