Stevenson Agrees to Stay With Wizards

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 14, 2007

LAS VEGAS, July 13 -- The Washington Wizards and unrestricted free agent shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson have agreed in principle on a four-year contract worth $15 million, according to a league source. Stevenson will hold a player option for the fourth year.

Stevenson, who is entering his seventh NBA season, averaged 11.2 points on a career-best 46.1 percent shooting last season while starting all 82 games at shooting guard. Negotiations between the Wizards and Stevenson's agent, Mark Bartelstein, heated up Thursday and the sides came to an agreement late Friday night.

"DeShawn is excited to be back," Bartelstein said. "He appreciated the way Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards gave him an opportunity to come in and play last year and he's looking forward to the future."

Once Stevenson signs, the Wizards will have 10 players under contract for the upcoming season. The team also is in the process of signing second-round pick Dominic McGuire and has the option of using its biannual exception (around $1.9 million). The team could use the exception to retain veteran center Calvin Booth, who was in Las Vegas following summer league play this week.

Stevenson's agreement all but ensures that the Wizards will not sign Spanish star Juan Carlos Navarro, who recently negotiated a way out of his contract with FC Barcelona.

Several teams have contacted Grunfeld, the Wizards' president, with interest in acquiring Navarro's NBA rights, including Memphis, Cleveland and Miami. On Thursday, Memphis star Pau Gasol told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that he wants Navarro in a Grizzlies uniform next season.

Gasol and Navarro came up together in Spain's national team system and remain close friends.

"He would love to play for Memphis," Gasol told the newspaper. "He would love to play next to me. He definitely wants to play in the NBA, and it would make the transition easier. Memphis would be the first choice but there are at least 10 teams after him."

Blatche Connection?

It's doubtful that Wizards fans could identify Detroit Pistons forward Amir Johnson without a game program but Johnson's decision to sign a four-year, $12 million pact with the Pistons on Thursday could impact Washington's negotiations with it's own third-year forward, Andray Blatche.

Here is why: like the 6-foot-9 Johnson, the 6-foot-11 Blatche was taken in the second-round of the 2005 draft after skipping college. Johnson came out of Westchester high school in Los Angeles while Blatche spent one year at South Kent Prep in Connecticut.

Both players are raw but talented young big men with versatility and limited NBA experience though Blatche has seen far more action than Johnson. Johnson has appeared in 11 games with the Pistons while Blatche has played 85 games with 13 starts.

And like Pistons general manager Joe Dumars, who said keeping Johnson was his focus after re-signing Chauncey Billups, Grunfeld has made it clear that retaining Stevenson and Blatche were his main summer priorities.

According to a league source, the Wizards have made a preliminary offer to Blatche but that offer wasn't close to the one signed by Johnson this week. Because Blatche is a restricted free agent, Grunfeld could simply wait and see what offers come Blatche's way and if Blatche signs, Grunfeld would have seven days to decide whether or not to match.

Wizards Fall to Rockets

The summer league team fell to 0-3 with a 74-69 loss to the Houston Rockets Friday night. Rookie forward Oleksiy Pecherov had his most impressive game of the league, scoring a team-high 26 points with 14 rebounds. Rookie shooting guard Nick Young added 14 points. The Wizards play Cleveland Saturday night. . . . Coach Eddie Jordan said he plans on speaking with former Memphis assistant Lionel Hollins about the Wizards' open assistant coaching position.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company