The Knicks have offered nearly $18 million and a no-trade contract to try to lure veteran forward Harvey Grant from the Washington Bullets, a source close to the New York team said yesterday.
The Knicks have tended Grant, a restricted free agent, a six-year package worth $17.8 million, plus a 15 percent bonus if he is traded within the life of the contract, the source said.
This is quite similar to the $16.6 million, seven-year offer sheet the Los Angeles Lakers gave to then Miami Heat point guard Sherman Douglas last season. Miami matched, but subsequently traded Douglas to the Boston Celtics in January for Brian Shaw, invoking the contract's 15 percent penalty clause.
A previous report that the Knicks had offered Grant $12 million over six years was far too modest. The four-year NBA veteran, who averaged 18 points and 6.8 rebounds last season, reportedly also has been offered loan guarantees at low interest rates.
Last season, Grant, who was Washington's No. 1 draft pick (12th overall) in 1988, earned $474,000, the 10th lowest salary on the Bullets roster. He tried to renegotiate his contract last winter, but management talks with his agent, Jim Sexton, of Memphis, Tenn., bogged down after reaching a reported $6 million for four years.
PD The Knicks' lucrative offer to Grant has Bullets general manager
John Nash uncertain over whether to match the proposal.
In a statement to the media yesterday, Nash said, "We are not prepared to make an announcement regarding any decision at this time. We have 15 days beginning Friday [today] in which to make a decision, and we will not comment further on the situation at this time."
This was in stark contrast to Nash's more optimistic outlook last month before the Knicks' formal offer to Grant.
Nash repeatedly had said the Bullets were "prepared to match any reasonable offer" to retain the 6-foot-9 forward.
Neither Grant nor Sexton returned calls yesterday.
In the meantime, the Knicks, who were already $500,000 under the new $14 million salary cap, continued to make additional room for Grant, pending the Bullets' decision.
The Knicks freed more than $1 million by renouncing reserve centers James Donaldson ($880,000) and Patrick Eddie
($130,000) and backup guard Kennard Winchester ($120,000).
The total approaches $2 million by adding the $795,000 contract of unrestricted free-agent guard Gerald Wilkins, who is pursuing a better deal.
The Bullets, in turn, have freed an estimated $1.8 million in their pursuit of first-round draft pick Tom Gugliotta, a 6-10 forward from North Carolina State.
Nash has been talking daily with Gugliotta's agent, Richard Howell, of Atlanta, and progress has been reported. But the Bullets closed their Capital Centre office early yesterday for an extended July 4 holiday.
Satisfying Gugliotta and re-signing Grant has become more imperative after the Bullets failed to give a qualifying contract offer to Ledell Eackles, who doubled as a shooting guard and small forward last season.
Eackles would have been guaranteed a salary of $975,000 next season.
"We did not want to commit to a contract of that magnitude," said Nash, who began to view Eackles in a negative light after his bitter contract dispute and ensuing holdout in the fall of 1990.
But Eackles' one-on-one skills will be missed at small forward, a position once overflowing with Bullets candidates, but decimated last season by Bernard King's knee injury and John Williams' persistent weight problems.
"At the end of last season, Ledell showed us he could do some positive things at small forward," said Bullets
coach Wes Unseld. "He proved he could break down the defense. But, of course, his statistics improved with more
Eackles' offensive skills were often offset by his uninspired defense.
"Defense is nothing but hard work," said Unseld, the Hall of Famer who excelled in that part of the game.
"At times, Ledell showed the effort. Other times, he didn't. But this situation [not re-signing him] boils down to our problems with the salary cap."