LANDOVER -- When the Washington Bullets presented a restructured contract offer to Juwan Howard on Thursday afternoon, general manager John Nash felt confident that the team's No. 1 draft pick would be in town and, possibly, in uniform for last night's season opener against the Orlando Magic.
But Howard and his agent, Washington-based lawyer David Falk, yesterday rejected the latest -- and Nash said the last -- offer from the Bullets, an 11-year package worth a guaranteed $36.7 million. This deal, which includes an option for a 12th year that would bring the package up to $41.6 million, was two years longer and over $6 million more in guaranteed money than the previous offer.
"In light of all the criteria we've been hearing, we felt it conformed to exceptionally fair market value," said Nash, who appeared frustrated.
Nash said that the latest offer to the former Michigan star and the fifth player taken in this year's NBA draft guaranteed him $17 million more than the contract signed by the No. 6 pick, Sharone Wright of the Philadelphia 76ers. Though Nash wouldn't speculate, the sticking point still appears to be the player's first-year salary.
According to published reports, the Bullets' offer of $1.3 million for Howard's rookie year is nearly $700,000 less than what Wright will be making. A new clause allowing Howard to terminate the contract after his third year to become a restricted free agent -- a clause Howard and Falk had been seeking for the past six weeks, said Nash -- did not seem to make any impact.
"They've been saying that we should give them the same [option to leave] as Tom Gugliotta and Don MacLean have," said Nash.
Falk, who has turned down several interview requests from The Sun during the negotiation process, was unavailable for comment last night.