Guard Richard Hamilton, who was selected seventh overall by the Washington Wizards in this year's draft, agreed today to a three-year, $5.9 million contract.
The former University of Connecticut star, who earned most valuable player honors in leading the Huskies to the NCAA championship in March, said he will not officially sign a contract until Aug. 1, but that Washington offered everything he sought.
"It's hard to think about it right now because I haven't signed yet," said Hamilton, who left Connecticut after his junior season. "Once I do I'm sure I'll be excited. Once I do I also know it's going to be all business."
The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement allows teams to exceed the designated maximum, which in Hamilton's case was $4.92 million, by 20 percent. The Wizards sweetened their offer to Hamilton on Tuesday after initially offering him 80 percent of the designated maximum.
Washington has an option to retain Hamilton for a fourth year. If Hamilton plays his first four seasons with the Wizards, the team has the right to match any offers from other teams or it can sign Hamilton to a new contract in his fifth season.
Hamilton, who averaged 21 points in his final two seasons at Connecticut, is penciled in as Mitch Richmond's backup at shooting guard. However, negotiations between the Wizards and Richmond, a free agent, have stalled and Richmond eventually could be traded or leave via free agency, leaving Hamilton as Washington's starter alongside point guard Rod Strickland.
A source close to the situation said today that although talks between Richmond and the Wizards are at a stalemate, chances are the sides will reach an agreement and Richmond will end up with the Wizards -- the team Richmond said remains at the top of his list. Richmond, 34, and his agent want to come to a quick agreement and because negotiations have not progressed in recent days, they have asked Washington to pursue sign-and-trade deals.
A club source said several teams have proposed trades for Richmond but none have been appealing enough for the Wizards to move their leading scorer from last season. Richmond, who averaged 19.7 points last season, is believed to be seeking a four-year deal worth at least $11 million per season.
The 6-foot-6 Hamilton, a collegiate all-American, is in Puerto Rico as a member of the United States senior national team, which is attempting to qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney by finishing among the top two teams at the Tournament of the Americas. The U.S. team has not lost in six games.
Hamilton has yet to play because of a sprained right ankle. He had hoped to be able to play tonight against Venezuela but said there is still swelling and he may not be able to play at all in the tournament. He injured the ankle diving for a loose ball at the final practice before the games.
"That part has been real frustrating," Hamilton said. "The practices have been good for me, though. I went up against Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, then over to Allan Houston and Steve Smith."
When the tournament ends Sunday, Hamilton will join Washington's summer league team, which begins play in Boston on Monday.