The Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic had exploratory talks about swapping free agent guards Mitch Richmond and Penny Hardaway two weeks ago, a Wizards team source confirmed yesterday. It was concluded, however, that the deal would be impossible to orchestrate because of complicated salary-cap measures.

The source said several similar sign-and-trade deals have been explored but talks were curtailed because of salary-cap constraints or because what has been offered Washington is not attractive enough to move Richmond, the team's leading scorer last season.

A month-long period, during which transactions could be discussed but not finalized, ends Aug. 1, at which time teams can sign free agents and make trades.

Richmond, who said he wants to remain with the Wizards, is believed to be seeking a four-year deal worth $12 million annually. Washington supposedly has offered Richmond a three-year deal between $9 and $10 million annually.

Richmond and his agent, Mike Sharpe, told the Wizards last week to seek out sign-and-trade deals if they had no intentions of bridging the monetary gap soon. Richmond and Sharpe also said they plan to see what teams could make it worthwhile for Richmond to sign outright as a free agent.

Richmond's options are limited, several agents and NBA general managers said. Toronto, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers have substantial room under the salary cap but none of those teams have aggressively pursued Richmond. The Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, for whom Richmond previously played, can create between $4 and $6 million under the cap, sources said, far below Richmond's asking price. The Seattle Supersonics and Miami Heat also have explored ways to trade for Richmond.

Meantime, the Wizards opened up their summer league schedule with a 98-77 loss to the Celtics in Boston. Randell Jackson paced Washington with 19 points.