Arenas Goes on Open Market

"I have a number in mind, a number I feel I'm worth and we'll just have to see what they come with," Wizards' guard Gilbert Arenas about his expectations for free agency. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 30, 2008

Gilbert Arenas said he opted out of the final year of his contract with the idea he would remain with the Washington Wizards. When NBA free agency officially opens at midnight tomorrow, Arenas will have an opportunity to show he was sincere.

According to a league source familiar with the situation, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld plans on soon offering Arenas a lucrative long-term contract, one that could cover up to six years and could be worth more than $100 million.

However, whether Grunfeld and the Wizards are willing to meet the three-time all star guard's wish for a maximum-level contract -- one that would cover six years and pay him over $124 million -- remains unclear.

Arenas could agree to a deal immediately, but contracts cannot become official until a one-week moratorium concludes July 9.

To get a deal done tomorrow, the Wizards and Arenas would have to work quickly because Arenas has a 9 a.m. flight to China, where he will participate in a promotional tour sponsored by Adidas. He will not return to the United States for two weeks.

Whether the Wizards offer the maximum or not, the team appears willing to make a huge investment in a player who is coming off two knee surgeries. Grunfeld has consistently stated that retaining Arenas and two-time all-star forward Antawn Jamison would be his offseason priorities.

The Wizards have been able to discuss a new contract with Jamison since he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but the team has not been allowed to have contact with Arenas because he opted out of the final year of a deal that would have paid him $12.8 million next season.

According a league source familiar with the team's thinking, the Wizards would like to complete a deal with Arenas before turning their attention to Jamison, who earned $16.3 million last season in the final year of a maximum-level contract he signed with Golden State in 2001.

Yesterday, Grunfeld shared little insight into his free agency plans other than to acknowledge that the Wizards still wants to sign Arenas and Jamison, two players who have helped them reach the playoffs four straight times since Jamison arrived before the 2004-05 season.

"We'll go through the process, and we'd certainly like to get both players signed," Grunfeld said.

When it comes to signing Arenas, the Wizards should be helped by a couple of factors. For starters, because he is their free agent, the Wizards can offer a six-year contract whereas no other team can offer more than five. Additionally, very few teams have the cap space to make Arenas a huge offer.

One team that could potentially make a run at Arenas is the Philadelphia 76ers, but they already have a point guard in Andre Miller and likely will look to add a forward this summer with the $11 million they have available. Philadelphia could make a run at Jamison, who drove up his value last season by averaging 21.4 points and 10.2 rebounds.

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