By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 1:39 AM
When Mike Bibby made his debut on Friday with the Washington Wizards, his brother-in-law, Miami Heat reserve guard Eddie House, burst into laughter, pointing at Bibby's awkward No. 00 jersey. Bibby looked down at his blue uniform, rolled his eyes, shook his head and shrugged.
From the moment he arrived last week in a five-player trade from Atlanta involving Kirk Hinrich, Bibby had no desire to play out the final days of his career on a lottery team. But Bibby proved how committed he was to possibly joining a playoff contender when he agreed to accept a buyout from the Wizards on Monday that required him to give back his entire $6.2 million salary next season.
"That shows you how much he wants to win," Bibby's agent, David Falk said in a telephone interview.
After about four days of informal negotiations, Bibby, Falk, and Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld met at Verizon Center to finalize the terms. Bibby, a 13-year veteran, will receive the remainder of his $5.7 million salary this season and has a chance to make more, should he sign a prorated minimum deal with his next team.
The settlement is a financial boon for the Wizards, who essentially turned Bibby into an expiring contract. With an agreement that amounts to a two-year buyout, the Wizards will still have a salary charge on their books of about $1 million next season for Bibby, but it is considerably less than what that they would've paid him to back up John Wall next season.
The Wizards worked out a buyout for $1.5 million last season with Zydrunas Ilgauskas after he was acquired from Cleveland in the Antawn Jamison deal, but one league source described the situation with Bibby as, "Fall-out-of-the-sky-luck."
"This gives us increased financial flexibility and also allows our young players to get significant minutes to develop them and continue to evaluate them," Grunfeld said. "It is a big sacrifice. [Bibby] said he's made a lot of money in this league and he enjoyed his few days here, but he had been in the playoffs eight, nine years in a row and he's almost 33 years old and he doesn't think he has many opportunities left for it and he wanted to take a shot on it. I didn't want to close the door on it and when he was willing to make that kind of sacrifice, we felt it was beneficial for us and was something we had to take advantage of."
Bibby, 32, has earned well over $100 million over his career, but he might not be making too much of a risk since the owners are expected to lock out the players when the collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30. He has made the playoffs in each of the past nine seasons and a person close to Bibby said he considered several options, including retirement, after he was traded.
The Wizards attempted to move Bibby again before the deadline but were unable to find a trade partner. Bibby had to be released by Tuesday in order to be eligible to sign with a playoff contender. He left the arena in the afternoon and later took a flight back to Atlanta, where he will gather his belongings and wait until he clears waivers on Wednesday.
Portland, Miami, Boston, San Antonio, the Los Angeles Lakers and possibly Denver are believed to have interest in him. The Heat is considered the favorite to get his services because it doesn't have a solid option at point guard and he would also team up with House. But if he heads to Miami, Bibby cannot wear No. 10 since it's retired for Tim Hardaway.
"I guess you have to give the player credit," Saunders said about Bibby, who scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting with eight assists in two games. "Sometimes in the latter part of your career, you feel you're maybe financially set, there are other things that maybe are more important. You hope the agenda for him is to win. That says something about him a little bit."
Mustafa Shakur, who recently completed his second 10-day contract with the Wizards, was signed for the rest of the season to replace Bibby. Shakur waited at home in Philadelphia until the buyout was completed. "I was surprised because you never know what's going to happen," Shakur said. "I'm sure Mike is going to be good, fellow Arizona alumni, a guy I looked up to. The opportunity here is great. A young team in the rebuilding process, it feels like I never left."