Not much looks familiar in face lift of Bullets Just 2 players left since Nash arrived

October 14, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. -- John Nash counted the familiar faces at the Washington Bullets training camp at Shepherd College yesterday and then said, "Only two left."

Talk about overhauls. Mr. Clean could not have done as thorough a job of housecleaning as Nash has in his two years as Bullets general manager. Only two veterans -- forward Harvey Grant and reserve center Charles Jones -- remain on the Bullets' roster that Nash inherited from his predecessor, Bob Ferry, in June 1990.

Through trades, draft choices, free agency and adroit use of the salary cap, Nash has assembled a youthful team that has changed the Bullets' image of hiring NBA retreads and CBA rejects to patch a sinking ship.

Except for Grant, the projected nucleus for the 1992-93 NBA season is made up of Nash acquisitions or draft picks.

Guards Michael Adams and Rex Chapman were obtained in trades, along with center Pervis Ellison and rookie forward Don MacLean. Forwards Buck Johnson and Larry Stewart were free-agent acquisitions, and guards LaBradford Smith and Brent Price and forward Tom Gugliotta were selected in the past two drafts.

The purge of the old Bullets came out of necessity after going 86-160 and missing the playoffs the past three years.

"When Abe Pollin brought me to the Bullets two years ago," sai Nash, "I had a firm mandate to make changes. We didn't have a first-round draft pick in 1990, so I knew I'd have to find other ways to improve the team."

After assessing his 1990-91 roster, Nash concluded there wer few "keepers."

"I figured we had four key players: John Williams, Bernard King Jeff Malone and Darrell Walker. All the others I considered fringe or complementary players. Malone and Walker were both reaching their peak and destined to be gone. To have kept them any longer would have hurt their future trade value."

Swapping Malone, rated one of the best pure shooting guards set the transition in motion. In a three-team deal involving Utah and Sacramento, the Bullets netted Ellison, now considered the team's cornerstone.

Most of the trades that followed resulted from crippling kne injuries to King and Williams, who then developed a weight problem that sidelined him all of last season. Valuable frontcourt reserve Mark Alarie also suffered a career-ending knee injury in 1991.

"We tried to replace them with a group of younger forwards wh could be interchangeable in [coach] Wes Unseld's motion offense," Nash said.

"We got lucky last year with Stewart [the free agent from CoppiState], and then, last month, we picked up Buck Johnson, who had started the last four years in Houston.

"We're still not certain what MacLean and Gugliotta bring to the table, but we know from their college background that they're both excellent shooting big men who could possibly play both small and power forward."

Before motoring down I-95, Nash had engineered a major face lif in Philadelphia. After his four years as the 76ers general manager, only All-Star forward Charles Barkley remained on the roster.

"We actually had a pretty good team when I first took over in Philadelphia in 1986," he said. "We'd won 54 games the year before. But then, just like happened in Washington, we suffered crippling injuries to key players like Jeff Ruland, Cliff Robinson and Roy Hinson."

But the present Bullets have more of Nash's personal stamp and there is a strong suspicion that, with the regular season three weeks away, he is not done trading.

In Chapman, Price, Grant, Gugliotta and MacLean, the Bullet now possess a number of highly accurate perimeter shooters. But, as Nash and Unseld both acknowledge, the team is still in dire need of a strong rebounder to help ignite the offense.

"Right now Pervis is our only proven double-digit rebounder, Nash said.

"We're hoping that Grant will continue to improve hi rebounding. Gugliotta and MacLean both had pretty good rebounding numbers in college, but they're still unproven as pros."

Unseld, commanding his fifth training camp, is being asked t mesh all the new, young faces into a fluid, competitive unit, in a hurry. If nothing else, the camp has been free of such past distractions as Williams' weight and King's uncertain playing status.

"I feel a whole lot better with this group of players than what w had in our training camp the previous two years," said Nash.

"But like Wes often reminds me, when the games start, he'down on the bench while I'm sitting up in the stands eating popcorn."

* MacLean officially signed a Bullets contract yesterday morning a six-year deal worth a reported $4.86 million. The former UCLA star, who was obtained last week in the swap that sent Williams to the Clippers, filled the salary slot ($464,000) of center William Bedford, who was waived by the Bullets on Monday.

Trader John

The major moves John Nash has made since becoming the Washington Bullets general manager in June 1990:

June 25, 1990: Traded guard Jeff Malone to Utah. The Jazz then sent center Eric Leckner and guard Bobby Hansen to Sacramento, with the Kings swapping center Pervis Ellison to

the Bullets.

June 11, 1991: Acquired guard Michael Adams from Denver for a first-round draft pick (eighth overall).

Sept. 5, 1991: Traded guard Darrell Walker to Detroit for second-round draft picks in 1993 and 1995.

Feb. 19, 1992: Acquired guard Rex Chapman from Charlotte for forward Tom Hammonds.

Sept. 22, 1992: Signed former Houston forward Buck Johnson as a free agent.

Oct. 8, 1992: Acquired rookie forward Don MacLean and center William Bedford from the Clippers for forward John Williams.

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