Lee Fentress, a Washington attorney representing Moses Malone, said yesterday that the Houston star "would be interested in playing for the Bullets."
However, Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry said it is unlikely Malone will ever sign with the Bullets. The bidding for his services is expected to go as high as $2.5 million a year, a sum Washington apparently is unwilling to pay. Malone becomes a free agent as soon as the playoffs are over.
"Sure, we'd love to have him; he's a superstar," Ferry said yesterday, "but it's doubtful we could get him. There are too many teams that can outbid us. We just don't have much to give them (the Rockets) for him."
Malone, 28, led the NBA in rebounding (14.7) and was second in scoring (31.1) this past season. He is considered the top attraction among the 63 free agents, and it is almost certain he will soon become the highest-paid player in league history.
Malone turned down a $1.5 million a year offer from the Rockets in midseason, but had been saying he preferred to stay in Houston. Fentress said yesterday, however, that Malone is now considering a move.
"At the beginning of the season and until February, Moses was inclined to stay in Houston if he could," Fentress said. "He never really looked forward to free agency and all of the hoopla and the sweepstakes involved, but because of Houston's inactivity, he's ready for it now . . . I think it's in his best interest to move if the price is right."
Malone spends parts of the offseason in Washington and has played in the Urban Coalition summer league here. "He likes the Washington area," said Fentress. "He knows the city and he's comfortable here, but we'd be surprised if the Bullets make a bid for him because that just hasn't been Mr. (Bullet owner Abe) Pollin's way of doing things."
Malone and Pollin were unavailable for comment yesterday. Pollin said April 26 that he would like to have Malone, "but I don't think we could afford him." He added that if "that $2.5 million figure is true, then I know I'm not interested."
Malone is already one of the highest-paid players in the league with an annual salary of $1 million. Magic Johnson of Los Angeles is believed to have the NBA's most lucrative contract--a 25-year, $25 million dollar pact.
By becoming a free agent, Malone can shop around the league for the best offer, then present that offer to the Rockets. Houston would then have 15 days to match the offer and keep Malone, let him go without compensation or match the offer and then trade him to the team making the offer or to another team.
"It's a twofold problem when you talk about getting Moses," Ferry said. "The money is secondary. It's making a deal after you take care of the money that will be just as difficult. The only shot the Bullets would have at him is to make a deal with Houston because we aren't going to outbid anybody for him. I don't want to mislead anyone; we just don't have much of a realistic chance of getting him."
Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey all have made it known they are interested in Malone and they also have the dollars.