Don't look now, but the Bullets have a new slogan: "The Future Is So Bright . . . " Those words appeared on the front of an envelope handed out yesterday at Capital Centre. Inside the envelope was a pair of "maximum ultraviolet protection" sunglasses.

There are those who think Bullets fans would get more use from paper bags than sunglasses in the coming seasons. They are pessimists. John Nash, who became part of this new Bullets future yesterday when he was named general manager, is an optimist. He has to be.

He could have gone to work for NBC-TV, or he could have gone into sports management and represented Lionel Simmons; he chose to withdraw his name from those situations and answer Abe Pollin's call for someone to replace Bob Ferry.

Nash left a team with Charles Barkley to become GM of a team that lost 51 games last year, doesn't have a first-round draft pick, and whose pivotal player, John Williams, is overweight and recuperating slowly from major knee surgery.

Still, Nash said early in his introductory news conference, "I don't know that it's going to be that long and arduous a task to turn it around."

Wes Unseld, in attendance, got a good chuckle out of that. "Well, this is a press conference for the GM," he said, failing at his effort to keep a straight face. "GMs last 16 years {a reference to Ferry's tenure}. Coaches don't."

Yes, Nash is an optimist. But his track record at Philadelphia suggests he is not naive. A 76ers team that won 36 games two years ago won 53 and the Atlantic Division this past season. Nash acquired seven of the top eight players on that team, all except Barkley. He traded for the back court of Hersey Hawkins and Johnny Dawkins. He traded to get center Mike Gminski, who would look real good in a Bullets uniform right now. He fleeced the Pacers, sending a rookie named Everette Stephens (out of the league) to Indiana for Ron Anderson, now one of the league's best sixth men.

The Bullets, aggressive in the trade market in the mid-'80s, have been slow to pull the trigger since. But Nash demonstrated in Philadelphia he's more than willing to place a few calls. "That Charles Jones needs some help at the center position is an obvious fact," Nash offered yesterday.

He appears to be from that school of thought (adding members every day) that figures, if you aren't absolutely, positively, certain that the rookie is a player of impact, trade the pick for someone who already has proven he can be.

From all indications, Nash will not wait patiently, even though the Bullets have only two second-round picks in next week's NBA draft. The big questions to ask of Nash are: Did Abe Pollin (whom Ferry indicated was not loose with the cash) commit to spending whatever it takes to sign a free agent or two? Will Nash or Unseld have the final say in personnel decisions? Does he think there is anybody other than Jeff Malone on the roster who can fetch a first-round pick?

Pollin seems to have convinced Nash that the bucks will be available to pursue an unrestricted free agent. "Believe me, there is commitment by ownership to do that or I wouldn't be here," he said.

The Unseld question couldn't be answered quite as convincingly, but one of many impressive things about Nash is his willingness to confront the tough issues, openly and directly. Nash, like everybody else who talks to NBA people every day, was under the impression that Ferry, in the last couple of seasons, was general manager in name only and that Unseld was the real personnel man.

Nash went so far as to say friends of his in the NBA, when they learned he was interested in the job, called him to say that Unseld's influence with Pollin in personnel matters "could be a potential problem."

Unseld said he, too, was aware of that perception but did nothing to create or foster it. "The understanding that we had is Wes obviously is a local favorite much like Julius Erving was in Philadelphia, and is a guy who is respected around this league and has a special relationship with the owner," Nash said. "If he can get the owner's ear to discuss player personnel, I would hope that he can. I think that is healthy."

Moments later Pollin was asked what would happen if Nash and Unseld couldn't agree on an important decision. "I would decide," Pollin said, raising some eyebrows.

Yesterday, Nash was an instant hit. He's honest and opinionated without being overbearing. He brings aggression and fresh ideas to a franchise that sorely needs both. Earlier in the day he met for hours with Unseld to talk personnel and strategy.

Through free agency or trades, the Bullets have a lot of work to do. Nash said he believes there is more than one player on the Bullets current roster who can bring a No. 1 pick, including one nonstarter. We can only assume he was refering to reserve scoring guard Ledell Eackles, who would first have to be signed before he could be traded. Nash has always liked Darrell Walker too. And Malone's reputation is better almost everywhere than in Washington. "But tomorrow," Nash said, "I have to find out what the rest of the league thinks of these players.

"I'm confident we could make a trade tomorrow to get into the first round. I'm not sure, though, that the player we'd get to draft would be better than the player we'd have to trade."

So many tough decisions, so little time. It may not take long, depending on what Nash is able to do, to determine whether those sunglasses will be needed to shield the glare of a bright future, or hide the frustration of enduring another season as one of the have-nots.