Representatives for Washington Wizards free agents Mitch Richmond and Calbert Cheaney contacted General Manager Wes Unseld yesterday, the first day of free agency, a team source said. The talks were characterized as preliminary and no serious negotiations were believed to have transpired.
Unseld declined to comment.
Wizards majority owner Abe Pollin said Wednesday night that management would like to re-sign both players, particularly Richmond. Richmond said Tuesday night that he would like to reach a deal with Washington as soon as possible.
There was no discussion between the Wizards and the representative for free agent forward Otis Thorpe, and Pollin did not mention him when he spoke of Richmond and Cheaney.
Teams are allowed to negotiate with free agents during July but no deals can be finalized before Aug. 1.
An All-Star Draft?
Part of the reason the Wizards wanted to hold Wednesday's NBA draft at MCI Center was to impress NBA officials so that Washington would be awarded the 2001 All-Star Game. Pollin said things went so well, it's a slam dunk the midseason showcase will be here in two years.
"As far as I'm concerned we're going to get it," Pollin said. "We showed that we've done the best job of anybody with the draft. The commissioner [David Stern] told me this is the best building he's been in, as far as the draft, and he's extremely happy with what we've done."
Washington is the front-runner for 2001, according to a league source. The 2000 All-Star Game will be held in Oakland, Calif., home of the Golden State Warriors.
Minority Owners Get Approval
Ted Leonsis and Jon Ledecky recently were approved by the NBA's executive committee to purchase a minority interest in the Washington Wizards from Pollin. Leonsis and Ledecky recently bought all of the NHL's Washington Capitals and a minority interest in Washington Sports and Entertainment Inc. -- the umbrella company that owns the Wizards, MCI Center, TicketMaster and US Airways Arena -- from Pollin.
Leonsis and Ledecky said Pollin consulted them on the Wizards' coaching search, which ended with the hiring of Gar Heard.
"When they call and ask for an opinion I give it to them," said Leonsis, an America Online executive. "I like [Heard] a lot. He was really prepared with the analysis on each of the players. He's a good guy."