John Nash walked to his new car, outside of his new office, all alone very late Wednesday night after the NBA draft. He hadn't had much sleep lately. You could almost see the outline of a telephone receiver on the side of his face. But his eyes were clear and wide open, as if someone had propped them with toothpicks, all the better to see the direction in which he is navigating the Washington Bullets.

Two weeks earlier, the Bullets were without a general manager, without a first-round pick in the draft, and feeling their way through probably the most uncertain time in the franchise's recent history. In one week's time, through a lot of resourcefulness and a little luck, the Bullets now have an athletic if modestly talented 7-footer, a 6-10 forward-center who was the No. 1 pick in the entire draft a year ago, and a shooter whom the Lakers thought enough of to consider choosing to challenge Byron Scott.

Too often in recent years, when the Bullets did have a No. 1 draft choice, reaction after the pick was either to yawn or scream in shock. While there was no instantaneous public feedback this time, it was encouraging that the Bullets' employees jumped to their feet, hooted, hollered and applauded when Greg Foster and A.J. English were selected within less than five minutes of one another in the second round.

The ovation, which also should indicate the delayed approval of the Pervis Ellison-Jeff Malone deal, was well deserved. It also seemed to catch Nash a little by surprise. Some of it sent a message that his assertiveness and willingness to take a calculated risk are appreciated.

"When you're in my position," Nash said, "you're trying to earn credibility not only with the fans but with the coaching staff and the organization. It is pressure and it isn't. You feel confident that if you're good at what you do, you will establish that credibility. But to have to come in and pull the trigger on a major trade and conduct a draft in ten days certainly accelerated the need for that process to begin to work."

Are the Bullets now ready to challenge the Sixers, Celtics and Knicks in the Atlantic Division? Probably not. But the Bullets have established a direction, and it appears to be north. You have to walk straight before you can turn the corner, but the Bullets took some nice strides this week.

Asked if at the beginning of the week he could have expected to have Ellison, Foster and English, Coach Wes Unseld said: "No. No way."

Asked the same question, Nash said: "I'd have been very pleased. The negative was the sacrifice of Jeff Malone, but that was probably inevitable."

It was, but Nash and Unseld recovered nicely. No, the Bullets didn't get everything on their wish list, or even the wish at the very top of the list. Lakers General Manager Jerry West took 6-foot-10 Elden Campbell at the end of the first round, surprising the Bullets a little. They would have taken the Clemson forward had he been available. But Foster was No. 2 on that list; he was still on the board because a couple of guards were picked earlier than expected. The draft isn't a precise science; Foster and English slid just far enough while Nash and Unseld held their breath.

Even with teams relying less and less on traditional pivotmen, you cannot win without at least two agile, quick-jumping players 6-9 or taller. That's why the Bullets traded Malone for Ellison and that's why they risked losing English to take Foster with the first of those two second-round picks.

Who knows where the next Kevin Duckworth, Mark Eaton or Mark West is lurking? Not inside the body of a shooting guard, that's for sure. Foster obviously is not expected to step in and become a primary offensive weapon, or he wouldn't have been hanging around to be taken eight picks into the second round. However, he can run and block shots. And he's not a total liability around the basket offensively. That's a start. Plus, he's got the right tutor in Unseld.

"Is he a project {like Manute Bol was}? No," Unseld asked and answered. "He can play basketball."

The Bullets would have loved to get Texas shooter Lance Blanks. Not only is he deep in range and dead of eye, but he's the kind of tempestuous personality you'd drive to Capital Centre and pay to see. But Detroit took him (if you think Dennis Rodman is a hot dog, wait till you see Blanks, who during the NCAA tournament did an airplane spin the length of the court after hitting a three-pointer), leaving English, who scored 50 points one night to catch Unseld's attention. English, who could be a prolific scorer from point guard or from Malone's off-guard slot, may turn out to be a bigger second-round steal than Ledell Eackles was two years ago. Between the two of them, Malone's 22 points aren't going to be as big a problem as one would have thought the day of the trade.

In the coming days or weeks, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Bullets trade one of their 43 small forwards to Portland for 6-10 Duke power forward Alaa Abdelnaby, one of the Trail Blazers' 43 power forwards. These new Bullets will play a lot and play immediately. "If I've got to change my system because of the talent we've acquired, then consider it changed," said Unseld. "They're going to have to be of the mindset of helping right away."

The Bullets, for a team without a No. 1 in a weak-draft year, did far better than any reasonable person could have expected in the draft and trade market. They didn't do as well as Sacramento, which had four picks in the first round and drafted potential rookie starters in Lionel Simmons and Travis Mays, who had no business slipping past point-guard desperate Houston.

If it's slipping we're talking about, how about Dwaaaaaayne Schintzius? The Kings passed on him four times. Jerry Reynolds might have drafted Dwayne Wayne before Dwayne Schintzius, who was finally taken by San Antonio, which already has David Robinson and Frank Brickowski at center. Larry Brown (not that he is alone) has had nothing good to say about Schintzius -- which is the very reason we should have suspected he'd draft him.