Top draft choice Wes Matthews is expected to be a no-show when the Washington Bullets open their rookie-free agent training camp Tuesday at Fort Meade.
The veterans are scheduled to report Friday.
Matthews, the 6-foot-1, lightning-quick guard who left the University of Wisconsin a year early to play in the National Basketball Association, was the 14th player selected in the June draft and is expected to battle Kevin Porter for the starting playmaking-guard spot. Matthews hasn't signed a Bullet contract yet, however, and his agent, Bob Woolf of Cambridge, Mass., said he and the Bullets "are nowhere near reaching an agreement." He added that he wouldn't let Matthews come to camp without a contract.
"We just haven't made any progress at all, Woolf said. "They made us an offer that wasn't acceptable. We made a counteroffer and they rejected it and came back with their original offer. Their offer is clearly far less than Wes should be signing for."
The last contact between the two sides was early last week.
The Bullets' offer, Woolf said, "isn't even in line with what the players drafted about the same time Matthews was have gotten."
The New York Knicks selected Mike Woodson of Indiana as the 12 pick in a first round and it was learned that he signed a three-year contract valued at approximately $450,000.
The 13th pick in the draft, Ricky Brown of Mississippi State, by Golden State, reportedly signed a three-year contract calling for about $425,000.
The Bullets offer to Matthews is about half of what Woodson and Brown got, according to Woolf, "and that shouldn't be. We're just a long way apart. I told the Bullets we would accept the same amount the 12th and 13th players selected got or even a little less. I would even be willing to sign a two- or one-year contract because I'm confident of Wes' ability."
Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry agreed that there has been very little progress in signing Matthews and said he didn't know what was going to happen. p
"There are games played on the floor of Captial Centre and there are other games played between agents and the teams and I guess we're playing one of those games now," Ferry said.
"It'll be a shame if Wes isn't in camp, because he needs it as much as anybody, but if he isn't here, he just isn't here." he said.
The only other Bullet rookie with a solid chance of making the team, third-round pick Ricky Mahorn of Hampton Institute, signed a Bullet contract a few weeks ago.
On the day of the draft, the Bullets also acquired Jeff Ruland from Golden State. Ruland, who left Iona a year early, signed to play in Europe instead of the NBA.
The purpose of the rookie camp is to give new Coach Gene Shue a chance to look at a number of players before deciding who is worthy of being invited to the regular camp Friday.
It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that the Bullets don't have many openings for newcomers. Veterans Kevin Grevey, Porter, John Williamson, Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Bob Dandridge, Greg Ballard and Mitch Kupchak are virtually assured of their spots, barring unforseen developments.
That leaves only three spots left on the 11-man roster. Matthews, assuming he will eventually sign, is assured of one of them. Mahorn and veteran center Dave Corzine have the inside track on the others. If Shue opts for a fifth guard or a swing man, only one of them will make it.
Most notable among the absent veterans is Larry Wright, a free agent the Bullets aren't particularly interested in retaining, and Jim Cleamons, who went to Dallas in the expansion draft.
Virtually all of last season, the Bullets moaned about how the loss of Dandridge and Kupchak hurt them. Both are expected in camp Friday.
Kupchak says he is as fit as he could be and is raring to go after nearly two years of back miseries.
Dandridge, who was in and out of the lineup most of the year with assorted injuries, had an operation last month to repair a compressed nerve in his leg.
Ferry said that Dandridge would go at his own pace in training camp.
Shue gave each player a weight to report at, something his predeccessor, Dick Motta, didn't do. The only player holding his breath about his weight appears to be Unseld. Williamson, who had a weight problem much of last season, is said to be in top condition.
The Bullets will conduct two-a-day practices in preparation for their exhibition season opener Sept. 23 against the Atlanta Hawks in Richmond. The regular season will begin against Detroit Pistons Oct. 10.