The attorney for Frank Johnson, the Bullets' No. 1 draft choice, said last night that his client and the Bullets have agreed to terms on a five-year contract, with the first four years of it guaranteed.
"The Bullets have come up with an offer that is acceptable to us in terms of the length of the contract, the dollar amount and how much of it is guaranteed," said Bill Pollak, the Washington attorney who has been negotiating for Johnson with Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry.
Ferry was cautious, however, and said that no contracts have been signed and won't be signed in time for Johnson, a 6-foot-2 guard from Wake Forest, to take part in today's practice, the first for the veterans.
"We've agreed to the principal terms," Ferry said, "but until everything is written up and signed, there isn't much else I can say. There are still some things to be worked out with Johnson and we don't expect Frank to practice today. He'll take his physicals and everything, though.
"If everything goes smoothly, he should be signed in the next couple of days, but you never know."
The key negotiating point, according to Pollak, was the guaranteed part of the contract.
"It was a major step when the Bullets were willing to guarantee in excess of the first year of the contract," Pollak said. "That was the key in making the total package acceptable."
Neither Pollak nor the Bullets would say how much the contract would pay Johnson, but it is believed to be in the range of $200,000 a year, which would make Johnson the highest paid Bullet rookie ever.
"It's an excellent contract and in accordance with the 1981 pay scale is all I can say about it," Pollak said.
Negotiations between the two sides stepped up last week. As recently as two weeks ago, it appeared the sides were far apart and there was speculation around the league that the Bullets wouldn't sign Johnson at all.
Johnson, whose brother Eddie is an all-star guard for the Atlanta Hawks, said he is "ready to go. I worked out regularly and I'm in good shape. I had hoped that this would have been settled by now and I'm looking forward to getting started.
"I'm going to do whatever Coach (Gene) Shue tells me to do. He has told me he wants to use me at both guard positions.
"I look at the Bullets as a young team that is rebuilding and on the way up, and that's the type of team I want to be a part of."
Pollak said a number of other teams had inquired about Johnson when the Bullets were checking around around the league to see who was interested in guard Kevin Grevey. Grevey had presented the Bullets with a four-year $1.4 million offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers.
The Bullets decided to match the offer under the NBA's right of first refusal rule. Thus, they kept Grevey and, now, with the apparently imminent signing of Johnson and the return of Kevin Porter, the Bullets' guard corps, a longtime trouble spot, appears to be the team's strength.