Mitch Kupchak's attorney said his client will sign an offer sheet from Los Angeles Lakers' owner Jerry Buss this afternoon.
He might as well be signing a Laker contract.
Buss is offering Kupchak an estimated $900,000 per year over seven years. The Bullets, for whom Kupchak has played for the past five years, have never paid such a high salary. There is no reason to think they will do so now.
"I would be very surprised if Mitch does not go to the team who has made him this offer," said Larry Fleisher, Kupchak's New York-based agent who received the offer sheet last week. Fleisher said Kupchak is conducting a two-week basketball camp on Long Island.
"He will sign tomorrow (today) and then we will mail it to the Bullets," said Fleisher.
And what of the Bullets?
"We will make a statement about this when we get the offer sheet. We really can't answer any questions now," said Bob Ferry, the Bullet general manager.
Under the right-of-first-refusal system instituted this year in the NBA, the Bullets will have 15 days after receiving the offer sheet to decide on one and keep Kupchak, they could let him go to the Lakers without compensation or they could match the offer, then trade Kupchak to a team that would be willing to pick up his salary.
When contacted yesterday, all of the teams rumored to be interested in Kupchak said they would not pay such a large amount for a 6-foot-11 player who never has been a starter in the NBA.
Rumor 1: Cleveland would trade forward Mike Mitchell for Kupchak. "That's not true.We no longer have any interest in Mitch Kupchak," said Cavalier owner Ted Stepien, who already has bought free agents Scott Wedman, James Edwards and Bobby Wilkerson for a combined $1.8 million a year. Stepien also offered Otis Birdsong $900,000 a year, but did not get him.
"We have heard that Kupchak has had a lot of allegiance towards Los Angeles and possibly New York. We are not pursuing him. Originally, he was in our top five or six free agents," said Stepien.
Rumor 2: the Knicks would trade Marvin Webster for Kupchak: "We have not had any conversations in the past with the Bullets," said New York owner Sonny Werblin. "If the figures are what I hear they are -- yes, $900,000 a year -- then we won't be having any conversations with the Bullets in the future, either."
Rumor 3: Phoenix would trade Leonard (Truck) Robinson for Kupchak. "We were interested in Kupchak when he was worth $350,000-$400,000 a year. We aren't interested anymore," said one official of the Suns, a team whose largest contract is owned by Walter Davis, who makes $500,000 per year.
Even Sam Schulman of the Seattle SuperSonics, the only other owner known to be inclined toward expensive free agents (he just signed Gus Williams and now is trying to hold onto Paul Westphal), said simply, "No." He is not interested in Mitch Kupchak, either.
So it appears that Mitch Kupchak might become a Laker.
"With him," said Jerry Buss, "on paper we've got as good a chance as anybody."