SEATTLE, JAN. 20 -- They are a team that had a bit of success, but may still be wondering about themselves. The Washington Bullets were coming on, but have lurched a step or two back in the last week, and it will be critical in the next few days and games to see what direction they go in next.

It wasn't so bad that Washington lost three of four games on this West coast trip, including Saturday's 111-89 defeat to the SuperSonics. Not many Eastern teams come out West and clean up on the opposition (and vice versa). It was the manner and the method.

That's part of the reason Coach Wes Unseld met with his rookies, second-year players and guard Ledell Eackles Saturday. Bernard King had said before the trip that the Bullets had to show their opponents they were ready to play as soon as they came on the court. That wasn't evident in many cases on the trip.

"We all get paid," Harvey Grant said. "We're professional athletes. We make big money. You just have to prepare yourself for these games. Maybe some guys aren't doing that. I'm not trying to point the finger but some guys really need to prepare themselves."

"If you're a rookie, you have to work at it," Charles Jones said. "You're not always going to have that home crowd {for motivation}. When you're on the road you know they're going to be for their team. You just block that out and just go play."

The note of discord was sounded because, if this is the way Washington is going to respond every time King is taken out of its offense, the Bullets are in a world of trouble.

King was finally neutralized. He was held to an average of 23 points per game on the trip, shooting 35 of 87 (40.2 percent). Each opponent had an athletic, rangy forward (Xavier McDaniel, Ken Norman, Cliff Robinson, Derrick McKey) that beat King to spots on the floor, and each team committed two and three men to help stop King every trip down the floor.

This is the way most teams have defensed King all season. But for most of this trip, Grant wasn't on the floor or wasn't himself because of shin splints in his right leg. Rookie guard Haywoode Workman, who has made defenses pay most of the season from the perimeter, was just 10 of 31 shooting.

And Eackles continued his erratic performances. The first two games of the trip, he scored 18 points and played as if he finally was working himself into form following a contract dispute. The last two games, he made only six of 19 shots. More troubling to the Bullets coaches was the fact that Eackles played 109 minutes on this trip and grabbed five rebounds.

The Bullets hold Eackles to a different standard not because he was a holdout, but because his talent is such that when he's playing well, Washington becomes a much more competitive team.

"We are looking to get something else out of certain people," assistant coach Bill Blair said, "other than your starters, when something's not going right for Bernard or something's not going right for Darrell {Walker}, whoever it may be. Somebody's got to pick up a little slack . . . some people have to give it to us. Ledell has got to do better than he's doing. Now that's just a fact. It's time for him to do better than he's doing."

Eackles said he has to "quit feeling sorry for myself" and just play ball. Asked why he's feeling sorry for himself, he cited some "private things that have come up in my life."

Unseld knows full well he can't always resort to fire and brimstone. "I'm no Billy Graham," he said. But with the other playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference imploding, the Bullets have a chance to make a strong move, especially with four games at home this week.

"I don't think the big fella {Unseld} is going to stand it much longer," Walker said.