With the Miami Heat trying feverishly to trade for Washington Wizards free agent Mitch Richmond, the teams also are discussing Miami acquiring free agents Otis Thorpe and Calbert Cheaney, according to sources with knowledge of the talks. It is not believed that all three players would be packaged together.
Regardless, sources said last night that Thorpe, 37, is expected to be with Miami next season, either through a sign-and-trade or by signing for the Heat's $2 million exception to the salary cap. Washington, obviously, would prefer to get something in a trade than to lose Thorpe outright.
The Heat previously had expressed interest in Cheaney but its desire to acquire him may have been heightened yesterday when it learned that backup guard Terry Porter is expected to sign with San Antonio.
If the Wizards package Thorpe and Cheaney, they may be able to receive either more players or a solid contributor in return. The Heat might be willing to part with backup forwards Mark Strickland and Keith Askins and backup center Duane Causwell in some combination.
Miami also continued discussions with Washington about trading for Richmond, a task that would be more difficult than trading for Thorpe and/or Cheaney. Since Thorpe and Cheaney are not expected to be paid more than they earned last season, the Heat, which is already over the cap, would not have to get under the cap for a trade.
However, Richmond, who earned $2.5 million last season, is expected to earn at least $10 million, a jump that would cause him to fall under the league's base-year compensation rule.
Any team wanting to acquire Richmond would have to clear enough room under the salary cap to take on all of Richmond's first-year salary. Washington would only be able to receive a player or players who earn little more than half of Richmond's first-year salary.
Since Miami is so far over the cap, it would have to work a deal with the third team having enough room under the cap to make such a trade work. That has proven difficult so far and is still a major roadblock in moving Richmond, said his agent, Mike Sharpe.
The Wizards also may not be willing to part with Richmond, whom Coach Gar Heard wants re-signed. A source close to Richmond said that the Wizards made concessions on their contract proposal to Richmond yesterday.
The team is said to have offered Richmond a three-year deal worth $10 million annually but with a team option to buy Richmond out after two seasons. It is believed Washington increased the yearly salary, the buyout price and guaranteed the third year in its latest proposal.