Bullets bringing offer to Howard Negotiations to begin today with All-Star, agent Falk

July 09, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

When Washington Bullets general manager Wes Unseld walks into the office of David Falk this afternoon to discuss the future of All-Star forward Juwan Howard, he plans to get straight to the point.

"I will go in with an offer," Unseld said yesterday. "We're going in ready to negotiate."

"Negotiate" is the word of the day with the NBA today, as approximately 140 players -- including some of the game's biggest stars -- become free agents. Free agency was supposed to have begun July 1 but was delayed after the league and the players association tentatively struck a deal at the last minute that averted a lockout.

That tentative agreement still was being ironed out yesterday, with the hope that the moratorium on signing free agents could be lifted today.

If all goes as planned, the suburban Washington office of Falk will become the league's center of attention for the day. That's because Falk represents an All-Star free-agent lineup of Michael Jordan, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Reggie Miller.

The Bullets' main concern is Howard, the talented second-year forward who is expected to draw interest from teams including the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons -- all with money to spend.

Based on Chris Webber's contract last season averaging $9.5 million over six seasons, the Bullets will be offering more. A seven-year offer -- the maximum length allowed under league rules -- could yield Howard as much as $84 million ($12 million per year).

Falk did not return calls to his office yesterday. And Unseld would not get into the specifics of his offer.

"The actual components of the contract will be negotiated once we get in there," Unseld said. "We will do our best to get Juwan signed."

Indeed, the Bullets are pulling out all the stops. On Sunday the team purchased a half-page ad in the Washington Post to run a letter from Abe Pollin. The owner asked fans to donate money to the Juwan Howard Foundation, which, among other charitable ventures, has supplied more than 10,000 coats to needy families in the Washington area. Pollin said once the final tally is in, he will match the donation.

Asked whether the ad was intended to influence Howard during negotiations, Unseld said: "I don't think it was meant to try to elicit any response, other than from the community.

"Mr. Pollin wanted to show he wanted Juwan here," Unseld added. "Mr. Pollin has helped out with the foundation before."

Howard, who was in New Orleans over the weekend at the Essence Music Festival, is expected to attend the talks.

While Unseld said he'll go into negotiations with an offer, he doesn't expect things to be settled today.

"I would love to get it done right away," Unseld said. "But I don't expect that happening."

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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