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Knicks Court Jeffries With Five-Year Offer

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 29, 2006; E05

Restricted free agent Jared Jeffries signed an offer sheet with the New York Knicks yesterday, according to NBA sources. The offer covers five years and is worth around $30 million and uses the Knicks' mid-level exception -- a first-year salary of $5.2 million.

Once the paperwork is complete and the Wizards receive a copy, the team will have seven days to decide whether to match the offer. Team owner Abe Pollin, President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Eddie Jordan have all indicated a desire to retain Jeffries and continue building on the momentum created by consecutive playoff appearances.

"We have not received an offer and if or when we do, we will have a week to explore all of our options to determine our course of action," Grunfeld said in a statement.

The 6-foot-11 Jeffries has posted averages of 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in four seasons while carving out a role as perhaps Washington's best all-around defensive player.

Isiah Thomas, the New York president of basketball operations and head coach, has long coveted Jeffries. Like Jeffries, Thomas starred at Indiana University and Thomas is eager to add more defensive-minded players to a team that allowed 102 points per game last season.

"We're excited about the prospect of having the opportunity to play with the Knicks," said Jeffries's agent, Andy Miller.

However, the Knicks may not want to get too comfortable with the idea of Jeffries in their lineup because the Wizards may match it. According to an NBA source, Jeffries turned down a "significant offer" from the Wizards earlier this summer, an offer that was worth more than the one he signed yesterday.

The Wizards have 13 players under contract after the recent signing of forward Darius Songaila to a five-year, $21 million deal but only 11 of those contracts are guaranteed.

Second-year guard Donell Taylor and third-year center Peter John Ramos have non-guaranteed contracts. Also, the Wizards have room under the NBA's luxury tax threshold to match the offer to Jeffries, according to sources.

Pollin has indicated that he is willing to spend up to, but not over, the luxury tax threshold, which is $65.4 million. Teams with payrolls over the threshold pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on the overage.

The Knicks already have Jalen Rose, Quentin Richardson, David Lee and first-round pick Renaldo Balkman at the small forward position, but Jeffries's versatility makes him a valuable asset.

For the Wizards last season, Jeffries started games at shooting guard and small forward, often played power forward and even played center late in the season when Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas were slowed by injury.

Should the Wizards retain Jeffries, the team will have first-round pick Oleksiy Pecherov return to Europe for another year of seasoning. Pecherov has not signed with the Wizards and remains under contract to his team in the Ukraine.

Also, should the Wizards retain Jeffries, the team will no longer have money to pursue free agent guard DeShawn Stevenson. The Wizards have courted Stevenson as a possible replacement for Jeffries.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company