By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 24, 2009
Fabricio Oberto has agreed to sign with the Washington Wizards, a decision that provides a veteran big man for the team and helps balance a roster heavy with back-court talent. Oberto was home in his native Argentina when he had his agent, Herb Rudoy, call Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and inform him on Thursday that he would accept a one-year deal worth the biannual exception of $1.99 million.
The 6-foot-10 Oberto spent the past four seasons in San Antonio and started on the Spurs' 2006-07 championship team. He also won an Olympic gold medal as a member of Argentina's national team in 2004.
He averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds last season. Sacramento, Phoenix, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers also were interested in Oberto, who was released by Detroit earlier this month after being involved in a three-team trade that sent Richard Jefferson to the Spurs.
After completing a pre-draft trade to acquire guards Randy Foye and Mike Miller, the Wizards were left with second-year center JaVale McGee and fifth-year forward Andray Blatche to back up center Brendan Haywood next season. Both players are younger than 23.
Although both McGee and Blatche played well at the NBA Summer League last week in Las Vegas -- McGee's performance earned him an invitation to a select minicamp this weekend for young, potential Team USA prospects -- the Wizards amped up their pursuit of the 34-year-old Oberto in recent days.
"He thinks they have a chance to have a terrific team," Rudoy said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Oberto "analyzed the teams that were interested in him and he felt that in Washington -- one, he had a good chance to play; two, they have a new, experienced coach and they have terrific players, which is what he was used to in San Antonio. He figured it out. He thinks it is a great opportunity for him to continue winning."
The presence of former Spurs assistant Mike Wells on Coach Flip Saunders's staff may have also helped woo Oberto to Washington.
Oberto had been hopeful for a return to San Antonio until that door was shut on Thursday when the Spurs signed veteran center Theo Ratliff.
The Wizards now have 14 players on their roster and are likely done making offseason moves with a payroll of about $78 million and an estimated luxury tax penalty of almost $8 million slated for next season.
Reached by phone on Thursday, McGee, who averaged 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in four summer league games, said he was excited about participating with the USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas, where he will practice and scrimmage for three days.
"I was surprised by it," McGee said of the invitation from Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball's national team director. "This is one of the most elite programs. I never really put any thought about being here. I just want to work harder to be a better player."