Washington Bullets forward Bernard King's season has tumbled into place like a succession of well-timed dominoes. Yesterday, another domino fell, as King was named a replacement starter for injured Larry Bird in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C.

King was selected by Eastern Conference Coach Chris Ford to replace Bird, who will miss the game with back spasms that have plagued him the last couple of weeks. Bird scored 18 points in his first appearance for Boston in 14 games Wednesday, but he sat out the Celtics' game last night in New York. (The team said it does not want Bird to travel or play on consecutive nights.)

King said he isn't the least bit upset that he wasn't named to start in the first place. He was selected as a reserve in a vote of Eastern Conference coaches.

"That's not going to overshadow the fact that I made the team," King said last night after putting the icing on his day with a 47-point performance in a win over the Nets. "That's what's really most important to me. The fact I'm named a starter is something I'm really excited about, absolutely. I've never started an all-star game at any point in my career. To be named a starter basically goes along with the way the year's been panning out for me. . . .

"Charlotte's going to be a lot of fun. When they introduce the starters, that's going to be really exciting to me. Coming back six years later and not only playing on the team, but to be a starter, that's kind of special."

"He should have been {a starter} all along," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said before last night's game. "I think he's had as good a year as anybody who's starting."

Philadelphia guard Hersey Hawkins was selected to replace Bird on the roster. Also, Detroit guard Joe Dumars was named to replace his injured teammate, Isiah Thomas, in the starting lineup Sunday.

King and Dumars will join Philadelphia forward Charles Barkley, Chicago guard Michael Jordan and New York center Patrick Ewing as starters.

The Western Conference starters will be guards Magic Johnson of the Lakers and Kevin Johnson of Phoenix, center David Robinson of San Antonio and forwards Karl Malone of Utah and Chris Mullin of Golden State.

King rarely has slowed down this season. Before last night's game he was third in the league in scoring at 29.6 points per game, averaging 37.6 minutes a night.

He's third on the Bullets in rebounding at 5.1 per game and second in assists at 4.4. He finished third at forward in fan voting behind Barkley and Bird and will be making his fourth all-star appearance.

An entourage, including Knicks team physician Norman Scott; Dania Sweitzer, his physical therapist during his two-year recovery; and King's family will be accompanying him to Charlotte for the weekend's activities.

"It's going to be fun," Scott said. "It's going to be very enjoyable. It's such a thrill. . . . To see him getting back to this level is just a delight."

King maintains that since this is what he wanted to achieve six years ago, when he hurt his knee, he isn't especially surprised by how his year has gone. He is surprised how much people are interested in it.

"I didn't get this sort of attention the last few years," he said. "I've learned to keep it in its proper perspective, but attention is always fun. The fact that the media has chosen to cover what's happening in my life in terms of the relationship with my career right now, that's nice. That means they respect the work that I've accomplished and they'd like to share the story with their audience."

"People just didn't come back from what he had," said Dallas Coach Richie Adubato, who was an assistant coach with New York when King injured his knee in March 1985. "Now you look at people like {Clippers forward Danny} Manning coming back pretty quick. {Clippers guard} Ron Harper came back. I hope {Dallas forward Roy} Tarpley fits into that category."

Unseld allowed that having a starting all-star might have a positive effect on the franchise. The Bullets already have sold out six games and have several more guaranteed big-crowd dates remaining.

"It can't hurt if it doesn't do any more than give some of our younger guys something to look up to," Unseld said, "something to aspire to be."

"I've noticed Harvey {Grant} following some of Bernard's lead," General Manager John Nash said. "Julius {Erving} was a lot like Bernard in his preparation. It had a positive effect on our team for a lot of years {in Philadelphia}. When Julius retired, we missed his leadership."

Speaking of the 76ers, this will mark the second straight year Barkley will be playing in the all-star game against his wishes. Last season he had a groin pull, but was told by the league that missing the game would not be in his best interests.

And while Bird missed last night's game in New York, and doesn't have to play Sunday, Barkley again was told by the NBA he has to play Sunday. This after he missed seven games with a stress fracture in his foot, returning to the lineup only last week.

Barkley grudgingly also will take part in the three-point shooting contest Saturday night.