Wizards Coach Randy Wittman is racking up the frequent flyer miles in an effort to make sure the team enters next season with the same starting lineup as 2013-14’s playoff roster. Wittman is heading to Los Angeles this evening and will meet with small forward Trevor Ariza on the first day of the negotiating period, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
The Wizards have made it a priority to sign Ariza and center Marcin Gortat, unrestricted free agents and starters on the franchise’s first team to win a second-round playoff game since 1982. Since both are currently in different parts of the world, Wittman has been forced to overcome jet lag and customs checks to keep them in Washington.
Vice president of player programs Ed Tapscott will also be with Wittman for the meeting with Ariza.
Wittman joined Senior Vice President Tommy Sheppard in Poland last Friday to assist Gortat in his basketball camp while also expressing the team’s desire to bring him and back. In a span of five days, Wittman will have traveled almost 11,000 miles in recruiting efforts – that doesn’t include a return trip to Washington from Los Angeles.
The trip to Poland, which also included assistant Pat Sullivan, had been scheduled several weeks ago and was more a kind gesture since the two sides were unable to discuss free agency or negotiate financial terms of the next deal. Sheppard stayed behind to meet with Gortat on Tuesday.
Gortat and Ariza are both expected to get raises from the $7.7 million that each player earned last season. They have both been linked as possible targets of the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat and the Wizards will be in competition to retain two of the team’s best defensive players.
Ariza is celebrating his 29th birthday on Monday and is also expected to attract attention from both Los Angeles teams, Houston, Detroit, Phoenix and Cleveland.