Bullets' offer to Howard not on the money

October 06, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

When the Washington Bullets roll out the basketballs tomorrow at Shepherd College in West Virginia for the official start of training camp, they'll do it with a new coach, a new point guard and a new attitude.

But barring a last-minute deal, their newest potential star, Juwan Howard, will be nowhere to be found.

Chances are that Howard, the fifth pick of the draft out of $H Michigan, will be in Chicago working out with his personal trainer preparing for an NBA career that may face a long delay because his agent, David Falk, and the Bullets have cut off contract negotiations.

The Bullets reportedly are offering slightly more than $30 million for 10 years, and Falk reportedly is seeking $24 million over six years, leaving the sides about $1 million a year apart. With each side holding firm, negotiations have become bitter. They have not spoken in two weeks, and no further talks are scheduled.

"I'm very disappointed and frustrated," Falk said. "They told us after their first offer there was no purpose to discuss it further. My job is to try to find a way to sign a player at a fair market value -- a contract that represents what players drafted fifth make."

That would leave Howard, a power forward and center, seeking a contract similar to that of the Minnesota Timberwolves' Isaiah Rider, the fifth pick last year who signed a seven-year, $25.5 million deal, an average of $3.6 million a year.

The Bullets, meanwhile, are trying to protect themselves in a system in which the top rookies are paid astronomical salaries despite being unproven on the professional level.

"We have a fifth pick who signed [Tuesday] in Kenny Walker," Bullets general manager John Nash said. "And in all due respect to Kenny, I think he is a case in point that with the outstanding credentials he had coming out of Kentucky, at the NBA level it all becomes a different game."

It's true there's a risk, but the thinking by Falk is that the average should fall somewhere between the nine-year, $42 million contract ($4.6 million per) reportedly signed by No. 4 pick Donyell Marshall of the Timberwolves, and the six-year, $18 million deal that sixth pick Sharone Wright (also a client of Falk's) has agreed to in principle with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"We all knew what Donyell was going to make three months ago," Falk said. "When I see the Dallas Mavericks announce proudly that they've paid more to [second pick] Jason Kidd than Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas made, combined, in their careers, it shows they want to turn that franchise around. The fans in Washington are starved for a winner."

The fans may be starved, but Nash said that giving Howard what he's seeking could be disruptive to the Bullets.

"Juwan Howard is a fine player, as evidenced by our offer -- it's the biggest in the history of our franchise," Nash said. "But by the same token we have to have some respect for the guys in our locker room who expect to start. And we don't expect Juwan to be a starter.

"[Salaries] have gotten beyond what makes sense, and I believe we all have to be responsible," Nash added. "I have to be responsible to not only [owner] Abe Pollin, but to the other players in our locker room. And I think that anything beyond what we have on the table at this point could jeopardize turning our locker room into turmoil."

As the stalemate continues, Howard sits and waits. Falk said his client has sought an audience with Pollin and the club, "but they've denied his request." Falk said the Bullets told him that a possible trade of Howard would not be considered until February.

"I have high regard for Abe and John, but it troubles me we're in this situation," Falk said. "I hope they will see it might be helpful to have dialogue."

NOTES: Kevin Duckworth showed up at the Bullets' practice facility in Bowie yesterday, one day after taking a physical in which he weighed 301 pounds -- well below his weight from a year ago when he neared 350. "I ran every day, lifted weights, did aerobics," said Duckworth, who spent part of his summer in a weight-loss program in North Carolina. "My body is tighter, I lost a lot of body fat and I feel good." . . . The Bullets will travel to West Virginia today and will meet with the media this evening. Two-a-day practices begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow. . . . Washington will open its preseason schedule Oct. 13 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Akron, Ohio.


Coach: Jim Lynam, first year with Bullets (246-264 overall NBA record).

Assistants: Bob Staak and Derek Smith.

Last year's record: 24-58 (last in the Atlantic Division).

Key newcomers: Skiles (in trade from the Orlando Magic), Howard (drafted with fifth pick), and McIlvaine (drafted in second round).

Players lost: Michael Adams (12.1 ppg, 7.1 apg), who was traded the Charlotte Hornets.

K? Training camp site: Shepherd College, Shepherdstown, W.Va.


* 1 -- Will Kevin Duckworth (6.6 points, 4.7 rpg) be in shape and play up to expectations when the season starts?

* 2 -- Will the team sign Howard, who seems likely to miss all of camp because of a contract dispute?

* 3 -- Can the Bullets improve on their team defense from a year ago, when they finished last in opponents' field-goal percentage (.508)?

* 4 -- Will Skiles' leadership qualities help awaken the team's timid on-the-court style?

* 5 -- How much improvement will they see from second-year players Muresan, who is stronger and more agile, and Cheaney, who showed a lot of promise in his rookie year (12.0 ppg)?

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