The Wizards Make Their Move

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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Washington Wizards' infatuation with Minnesota continues. The Wizards agreed in principle last night to a deal that would send the No. 5 overall pick, Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for forward Mike Miller and guard Randy Foye, two league sources said.

The Wizards had been open to dealing the pick from the moment they slipped to the fifth pick in the draft lottery. Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards' president of basketball operations, was considering several offers and had spoken with more than a dozen teams, but he jumped on the offer from Minnesota two days before tomorrow's NBA draft.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the trade, which could be summarized as a swap of a high draft pick and role players for two possible starters, will not be finalized until today.

Having already hired two former Timberwolves head coaches in Flip Saunders and Randy Wittman, a former Timberwolves assistant in Don Zierden and a former Timberwolves player in Sam Cassell, the Wizards continue to raid the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

According to a league source, the Wizards tried to pry the No. 18 pick from Minnesota but the Timberwolves balked. The deal that was agreed upon brings in two former lottery picks, including Miller, the 2001 rookie of the year. Miller, a versatile 6-foot-8 forward, is a respected long-range shooter who has shot 40.1 percent from beyond the three-point line over his career. He also has a career average of 13.9 points in a nine-year career with Orlando, Memphis and Minnesota. But in his only season with the Timberwolves, Miller had the worst season of his career, averaging 9.9 points and shooting 37.8 percent from the beyond the three-point line.

Foye, who went seventh in the 2006 draft, is is 6 feet 4 and can play either guard position. Foye averaged 16.3 points and 4.3 assists last season, and came on strong after Kevin McHale replaced Wittman.

The Wizards had considered seven players for the fifth pick: Davidson point guard Stephen Curry, Southern California swingman DeMar DeRozan, Memphis point guard Tyreke Evans, Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn, Arizona State shooting guard James Harden, Arizona forward Jordan Hill and Lottomatica Roma point guard Brandon Jennings.

According to multiple sources, Grunfeld had no intention of dealing any of the Wizards' three best players, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison or Caron Butler, who had attracted the most attention for a potential trade. With Jamison turning 33 this month, and Arenas turning 28, Butler turning 30 and Brendan Haywood turning 30 this season, the Wizards have a steadily closing window of opportunity. That urgency to win may have forced them to deal for veterans rather than add a rookie to a roster that already has six players age 24 or younger. Miller is 29. Foye turns 26 in September.

"We're trying to put a solid team around Gilbert, around Caron, around Antawn, Brendan and everyone else," Grunfeld said at a news conference earlier yesterday.

Miller will make $9.75 million next season in the last year of his deal, while Foye will earn $3.58 million. He will become a restricted free agent next summer. The trade frees the Wizards of some undesirable contracts and reduces the payroll, and potential luxury tax penalty, to about $76 million, now that they won't have to pay a draft pick.

The No. 5 pick is slated to earn $2.7 million next season. The Wizards still have the No. 32 pick in the draft and might not be done dealing, with a 13-man roster that features six guards and few big men.

The Wizards were able to unload Thomas's expiring contract, which they had attempted to do at the February trade deadline. Thomas, a gifted orator who has been politically active in the D.C. community since joining the Wizards in 2000, was limited to just 26 games the past two seasons. A heart condition robbed him of the entire 2007-08 season and his past season ended in January after suffering a torn medial collateral ligament. By accepting the trade, Thomas will receive an extra $1.2 million because of a clause in his contract.

Songaila averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds, taking advantage of the Wizards injury-plagued season to average 19.8 minutes per game, his highest since joining the team in the summer of 2006. Pecherov, a native of Ukraine whom the Wizards selected No. 18 in 2006, never found his niche and rarely played.

-- BUCKS DEAL JEFFERSON: San Antonio acquired scoring swingman Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee in a four-player deal yesterday.

The Spurs sent veterans Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto to the Bucks in exchange for Jefferson, who averaged 19.6 points in his one season with the Bucks.

Milwaukee then dealt Oberto to the Pistons for forward Amir Johnson. The trades give the Bucks more financial flexibility, the Spurs a proven scorer and the Pistons a veteran big man at a lower cost.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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