DENVER, DEC. 10 -- Harvey Grant was dragging Sunday night, but Wes Unseld couldn't, or wouldn't, give him a breather. Darrell Walker's heels were stinging, but he had to stay in. That is part of the new problem for the Washington Bullets, who finally complete their 10-day western trip Tuesday night against the high-octane Denver Nuggets.

In Sunday's 106-99 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles, four of the five starters played the entire second half. Only Haywoode Workman got a brief rest. It had to do with the performance of the bench, unproductive for the second straight game.

There had been rumors of a trade to help the situation, but the only activity today was no help. The Bullets waived rookie guard Larry Robinson, who had been on the injured list since Nov. 27 with tendinitis in his left foot. Robinson was on the trip, but merely as a spectator. He averaged 6.7 points and 2.4 assists before being shelved when Ledell Eackles was activated.

The pattern of substitution is very sporadic right now. A.J. English, who played very well against both Golden State and Sacramento, did not play Sunday. Pervis Ellison's minutes have dwindled. Mark Alarie is in and out, and never got in against the Lakers.

It is a classic chicken-and-egg question: Are the reserves not playing well because of not getting any minutes, or not getting minutes because they aren't playing well?

"Your chicken-and-egg question only works if you're talking to people who are sitting on the bench," Unseld said. "If I tell you what I see, you'll know what I know, and I don't want you to know all I know."

He did acknowledge that the current substitution pattern has to do more with individual players coming in to do individual things than with a unit concept.

"That's what I'm seeing," he said. "That's not what I want or what I've hoped for. I've got the same problem with my bench that I do with my starters. They're in a developmental phase. But it's going to take a lot of work. And I don't know if I have a lot of workers on my bench."

"It would be nice," Walker said, "to have some guys come off the bench and give us some help. . . . Mark and Tommy {Hammonds} . . . Ledell . . . Right now nobody's producing."

Currently there is no sixth man as such, as John Williams was two years ago or Eackles last season. And there is certainly no unit mandate as there was two years ago. That was when the second team was primarily a trapping group.

"I've got to worry about the things I have control over, like what I do when I get in the game," English said today. "You don't know what frame of mind you're in. It would be so much easier if you knew you're going to be the sixth or seventh man. You get hyped up for the game. But when you get so hyped up you set yourself up for disappointment when you don't get in. You've got to keep an even keel. It's hard right now. But I've just got to stay ready."

Hammonds has suffered from the inconsistent time, and when he got in during the second quarter, James Worthy scored on him three straight times. He was quickly out.

"I know I didn't get in {the second half}," he said. "It obviously makes it hard on you, but it's something I'm paid to do. When we get in there now we just continue to do the things that we've done to start the game. We don't really play up-tempo. We don't really trap. I can't put my finger on it. The year before I got here it was an up-tempo game when the bench got in."

If the bench is suffering, it at least has meant more playing time for Grant, who had another terrific game Sunday with 25 points and 12 rebounds. In his last six games, Grant has averaged 18 points on 52 percent (45 of 86) shooting.

"I'm getting more optimistic about Harvey every minute," Unseld said. "Not so much his on-court {performance}, but I'm watching him off court. I thought in the past he was too much of a follower. Now he's changing. He's leading. He's speaking out. He's acting authoritatively. And it's showing on the court, in the locker room, on the bus, everywhere."

It dovetails nicely with the usual expectations of third-year players.

"Same thing I told you about John Williams," Unseld said. "You're either going to show it now or you're never going to show it."