Bullets await word on pursuing Howard Expect notification today after Heat contract voided

August 05, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are expected to notify the Washington Bullets today whether they will be allowed to renegotiate a contract with forward Juwan Howard, a team source said yesterday.

After playing his first two pro seasons with the Bullets, Howard last month signed a seven-year, $98 million contract with the Miami Heat.

Last week, however, the NBA voided the pact, again making Howard a free agent after determining Miami had exceeded its salary cap by agreeing to pay Howard $9 million this coming season.

The dispute will now go to arbitration, with a hearing anticipated by Aug. 15.

But the Bullets, who were outbid by the Heat, are in a unique position. A team can exceed the NBA salary cap to sign one of its own players.

Bullets general manager Wes Unseld denied a published report that he held discussions with Howard's agent, David Falk, who is believed to be vacationing in Israel.

"Naturally, we're interested in re-signing Juwan," Unseld said last night. "But we can't talk to him or his agent until we get clearance from the league and players union. We're hoping that will happen very soon."

But there are a number of roadblocks before Howard conceivably could return to the Bullets. The NBA reportedly would void the team's July 15 acquisition of Tracy Murray, the free-agent forward who signed a seven-year, $17 million contract.

The NBA also could question the Bullets' signing of free-agent power forward Lorenzo Williams. Ten days ago, the former Dallas Maverick agreed to a seven-year contract worth $10.528 million.

"All this is under discussion by league officials, and one of the reasons everything has been put on hold," Unseld explained.

Another hurdle was a temporary injunction the Heat obtained in Dade County Circuit Court Friday. The ruling states that unless the dispute over the validity of the Heat's contract has been resolved, no other NBA team can sign Howard, nor can the NBA approve such a contract.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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