Looking at the standings, Washington Bullets general manager John Nash sees a team that, perhaps with an additional player or two, is capable of earning a playoff spot. Looking at his roster, he sees an injury-riddled team that is short on expendable players.
So with the trading deadline approaching Thursday, Nash said he's not inclined to make a deal that possibly could vault the Bullets into their first playoff spot since the 1987-88 season.
"I don't feel it's likely we'll make a trade," Nash said. "But being in a spot where we can possibly make the playoffs, that's probably why we're continuing to make calls to see if there is something we can do that doesn't cause us to sacrifice our future signings."
The Bullets don't have many picks to deal. When they traded for Chris Webber, they gave up Tom Gugliotta and first-round choices in 1996, 1998 and 2000 to the Golden State Warriors. The Bullets gave up a first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Mark Price trade, leaving Washington without a first-round pick until 1997.
"We've dealt away a number of first-round picks," Nash said. "We can't part with any more."
Because of injuries, the only players on the roster who might yield something in return are Juwan Howard, Calbert Cheaney, Gheorghe Muresan and Rasheed Wallace. Although Cheaney and Wallace have been mentioned in rumors throughout the season, Nash said he's reluctant to part with any of his players.
"With so many players on the shelf because of injury, we don't have a lot of talent to trade," Nash said. "We can change pieces, but I'm not sure it makes us better."
Howard can terminate his contract and become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and teams such as the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers might be interested in signing him (the Knicks, with two recent deals, expect to be between $9 million and $10 million under the salary cap after this season).
When the New Jersey Nets feared losing Kenny Anderson to free agency, they decided to get something in return and traded him to the Charlotte Hornets earlier this season. That's a route the Bullets could go to get a player or two in return, in the event Howard would leave. One report, published two weeks ago in Sports Illustrated, had the Bullets and Minnesota Timberwolves discussing a Howard-for-Gugliotta deal.
"I don't worry about that at all," Howard said, when asked whether he feared being traded because of his contract status. "In this business there will be times where key players are traded, there will be times where average players are traded. I don't concentrate on that type of thing. If it happens, it happens. I would love to remain a Washington Bullet."
Nash said the Bullets will do everything in their power to see that happen.
"We have no interest in trading Juwan, none," Nash said. nTC There's been a lot of speculation, unfounded, that's related to Juwan. [Owner Abe Pollin] has made it clear to me he wants us to build the franchise around Chris Webber and Juwan Howard.
"It's a decision we made a long time back," Nash said. "We knew about the opportunity for Juwan to terminate from the time we signed the contract. If we had planned to trade him, we would have done it by now."