The Bullets and top draft choice Wes Matthews agreed to terms on a multi-year contract yesterday. Matthews is expected to begin practicing with the basketball team today at its Fort Meade training site.
The 6-foot-1 Matthews, a playmaking guard who was expected to push Kevin Porter for a starting job, has missed more than a week of practice. That is not expected to hurt his chances of making the team.
Terms of the contract Matthews was to sign probably last night or this morning were not disclosed. But it was learned that at least the first year of what is believed to be a three-year deal is guaranteed and it calls for Matthews, who left the University of Wisconsin with a year's eligibility remaining, to receive more than $100,000 each year with an increase each season. Matthews also reportedly received a signing bonus.
As recently as three days ago, negotiations were at an impasse. The Bullets reportedly were offering $60,000 a year while Matthews wanted twice that. But on Thursday, General Manager Bob Ferry and Matthews' agent, Bob Woolf of Cambridge, Mass., started talking again by telephone.
They conversed five or six times, ironing out details, then closed the deal yesterday.
"It's an agreement I think is fair and in line with what the other NBA first-round draft choices who have signed have gotten," Woolf said. "The Bullets made it known that they wanted Wes. I'm glad this is over and I'm pleased it worked out this way. The Bullets are getting one fine player."
Ferry said he never had any doubts that he would sign Matthews.
One reason for Ferry's optimism was that he knew he had Matthews over a barrel. There wasn't any other place he could go. The European leagues are not very interested in 6-1 Americans and Matthews couldn't go back to school.
Ferry added that he thought Matthews was in good shape and would be ready to go full speed right away.
"Shape isn't the problem," he said. "He just has to learn real quick what the other players have been doing for awhile."
With the addition of Matthews, Washington has five "true" guards in camp -- Porter, Kevin Grevey, John Williamson, rookie Daryl Strickland and Matthews -- and two rookie forwards being tried at guard, Ken Dancy and Carlos Terry. Of the group, only Porter and Matthews are natural playmakers.
The team is expected to work out twice a day through Monday in preparation for its first exhibition game Tuesday at Richmond against the Atlanta Hawks. The Bullets play the Chicago Bulls in Huntington, W. Va., the following night.
Signing Matthews takes care of the Bullets' only contractual problem, but Matthews' reporting does not really solve what Coach Gene Shue considers a major weakness of the team: lack of a big, strong, defense-oriented guard who also can score and handle the ball.
The addition of Matthews somewhat solidifies the squad at the playmaking guard spot, but, counting Porter and Williamson, the Bullets have three short guards, a luxury or a handicap, depending on how one looks at it, that most teams don't have.
Williamson is barely 6-2, Porter barely 5-11.
Ferry said Matthews is "unlike any other player we have."
Ferry and Shue agree that Matthews is one of the quickest players either has seen and a better outside shooter than Porter, but he has a tendency to play out of control at times. How well and how much he plays will depend on how he modifies that tendency.
Mitch Kupchak didn't work out yesterday because of a sore Achilles' tendon. The injury is not serious, Kupchak said, but team physician Stan Lavine recommended Kupchak rest it for at least one day. He joined center Dave Corzine on the sidelines. Corzine is out at least until Tuesday with a cut foot, sustained in a household accident.