In his first month on the job, Washington Bullets general manager John Nash made a blockbuster deal -- guard Jeff Malone for forward/center Pervis Ellison, and a minor one involving reserve guards -- Steve Colter for Byron Irvin.
But Nash, who first gained a reputation as an active trader in four years as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, has also learned patience.
With the National Basketball Association trade deadline at midnight tonight, there is little reason to believe the Bullets will be making any deals, big or small. That might seem odd considering Washington's 22-31 record that ranks ninth in the Eastern Conference, one place short of a playoff berth.
"I'm still on the phone, listening to offers," Nash said yesterday. "Teams see us as being on the fringe of the playoffs and want us to give away players for future draft picks. But I see our future as being brighter than they do."
Nash says his team is better than its record. But because of injuries to key players, the Bullets have had little chance to prove it.
"In my opinion," said Nash, "you can't draw valid conclusions about a team until you see it as a whole. And we've never had that luxury this season.
"We waited until earlier this month to get [power forward] John Williams playing again. As soon as John got back, we lost both our starting guards -- Darrell Walker [sprained knee] and Haywoode Workman [pulled groin muscle]. Each player adds pluses or minuses to a team on offense and defense, but we've never had a chance to assess all of our would-be starters playing together."
At the start of training camp, coach Wes Unseld envisioned a possible starting five of Walker, Ledell Eackles, Ellison, Bernard King and Williams, with Harvey Grant in a key backup role. But not once this season has that group functioned together.
Williams, coming off knee surgery, still appears at least a month HTC away away from top form and meaningful minutes, and Ellison, a slow starter, only recently claimed a starting job.
But it is the recent play of Eackles, A.J. English and Ellison that has Nash thinking the Bullets' future is considerably brighter.
"After our terrible trip through Texas, you would never have thought Eackles and English could play together in the backcourt, especially with A.J. at the point," said Nash, "but in our last two games against Cleveland and Chicago, A.J. did a lot of positive things running the offense and Ledell looked like the ,, Eackles of a year ago the way he was shooting the ball."
English has averaged 16.8 points and 6.2 assists over the past five games in his unfamiliar role as a playmaker, and Eackles has averaged 20.6 points and shot 61 percent over the same span.
"They might make some mistakes defensively, but they've shown they're capable of scoring a lot of points," Nash said.
Ellison, starting at center the last four games in place of Charles Jones, has been equally impressive. Far more aggressive on the offensive end, the 6-foot-10 player from Louisville has averaged 10.8 points and made 73 percent of his field-goal attempts. He is also averaging 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over the past five games.
"Pervis has shown flashes of brilliance," Nash said, "but you want to see him sustain it over an extended time before making hard judgments."