Howard talks are nothing to shout about Progress appears slow after first meeting

July 12, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Washington Bullets forward Juwan Howard had to be impressed yesterday when he looked out the windows at the offices of agent David Falk. Glancing down, he saw a rally staged by the team, complete with cheerleaders and a band. Overhead, a plane flew around, pulling a banner reading "The Bullets love Juwan."

Howard was said to be touched by the display, but afterward there were indications all did not go as smoothly as the Bullets had hoped as the club began talks to keep the All-Star forward in Washington.

If Bullets general manager Wes Unseld was excited by anything that took place during the talks, he didn't show it when he met briefly with reporters afterward.

"There's not a lot to read on the faces of negotiations at this time," Unseld said.

"No, there was no indication [from Howard]. We just have to wait and see. We made a presentation, and after that we agreed to talk."

A close friend of Howard's, waiting outside the offices, said before the talks that the second-year forward had his heart set on staying with Washington. But after the talks and after speaking with Howard, the friend said Howard seemed subdued and indicated the offer from the Bullets was not satisfactory.

The meetings took place at Falk's offices in Northwest Washington, where Unseld made a one-hour presentation to Falk and Howard. "We had some discussions," Unseld said. "And we'll talk again [today]."

By that time the Bullets might know how their offer stands up against other teams who also had appointments with Falk scheduled into the early hours this morning. The New York Knicks, the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers met with Falk yesterday and were expected to make their offers.

The Miami Heat, which at $13.1 million under the cap has the most money available, was scheduled to meet with Falk at 2 a.m.

Howard, after the last game of the season, advised that the Bullets should come up with a good opening offer. The Bullets were expected to offer a long-term deal worth more than $10 million a year -- better than the six-year offer to Chris Webber that averaged $9.5 million per season -- and as much as $12 million.

Howard, who began his first season a month late after a holdout, is considered one of the most attractive free agents in this year's star-filled market.

In his second season on a Bullets team riddled with injuries, Howard averaged 22.1 points and 8.1 rebounds and helped the team stay in the playoff race until the final week of the season.

Bullets and opposing coaches spoke highly of his work ethic and steady play throughout the season. And those coaches rewarded him by naming him to the All-Star team.

The Bullets said they will now wait to hear from Falk, with further talks expected today.

In addition to talking to Falk, the Bullets also were busy making calls to the agents of Jim McIlvaine and Robert Pack, two second-tier free agents also expected to generate quite a bit of interest.

Ron Grinker, the agent for McIlvaine, has said the bidding for his client will start at about $3 million per season. Pack could wind up with the same amount.

"I've talked to several teams and we're just now trying to lay the groundwork," said Anthony Hilliard, the agent for Pack, last night. "I had a conversation with Wes [last night] and we talked about some things of substance. I'll know more [today]."

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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