Wizards May Not Protect Stackhouse
Dixon and Laettner Also Could Be Available
By Steve Wyche
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 11, 2004; Page D09
AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 10 -- The Washington Wizards are expected to expose former Maryland guard Juan Dixon, veteran swingman Jerry Stackhouse and forward Christian Laettner in the expansion draft, according to a league source.
Every team except the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons, who are competing in the league finals, must send the NBA a list of eight players by Friday they plan to protect from the June 22 draft to fill the roster of the league's newest team, the Charlotte Bobcats. The Lakers and Pistons will have 24 hours after the completion of the championship series to notify the league of the players they plan to protect.
According to the source -- who did not want to be identified because the list of unprotected players is supposed to remain confidential by league rules -- Washington plans to protect guards Gilbert Arenas, Larry Hughes and Steve Blake, forwards Kwame Brown, Jared Jeffries and Jarvis Hayes and centers Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. The only other players under contract are Stackhouse, Dixon and Laettner.
Charlotte begins play next season in the newly formed Southeast Division -- which includes Washington, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando. The Bobcats must select at least 14 players in the expansion draft but can choose only one player from a particular team. Bobcats General Manager and Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said it is not the franchise's plan to take players with lengthy, high-priced salaries, which could eliminate Stackhouse (three years, $25 million).
Dixon ($1.35 million) and Laettner ($6.2 million) could be appealing because they have just one year left on their contracts. Both also led their respective Atlantic Coast Conference schools (Maryland, Duke) to NCAA titles, giving them some name recognition in a region mad about ACC basketball.
A team can encourage the Bobcats to take one of its players in the expansion draft by offering to pay up to $3 million of the player's salary or by helping to broker trades. Charlotte, which holds the No. 4 overall pick in the June 24 draft, could package some of the players it selects in the expansion draft in future deals.
There is no guarantee that any of the players the Wizards opted to protect, or any of those not taken by the Bobcats, will be back next season. They will continue exploring trades throughout the summer, President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said. Team officials have had trade talks regarding the fifth overall selection in the June 24 draft, but it seems likely they will utilize the pick.
Stanford's Josh Childress, Duke's Luol Deng, Arizona's Andre Iguodala and Wisconsin's Devin Harris are said to be on the Wizards' short list, according to a team source. All are perimeter players. Washington also holds the 32nd overall pick.
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