Washington Wizards free agent swingman Calbert Cheaney turned down a sign-and-trade deal with the Miami Heat yesterday, negating an arrangement that would have brought Washington an unnamed front-court player one league source said would have significantly strengthened the Wizards' bench.
Washington General Manager Wes Unseld declined to say why Cheaney reneged on the deal, which was agreed upon in principle at 1:30 a.m. yesterday. A Wizards' source said Cheaney's agent, Michael Higgins, notified Unseld of Cheaney's decision around noon yesterday. Higgins could not be reached to comment last night.
Since he is a free agent, Cheaney would have to sign with Washington before he could be traded.
While Cheaney opted not to go to Miami, Wizards free agent forward Otis Thorpe signed a two-year, $4.2 million deal with the Heat. Thorpe, 37, came to Washington from Sacramento, along with guard Mitch Richmond, before last season in a trade for forward Chris Webber. Thorpe is expected to back up center Alonzo Mourning and power forward P.J. Brown.
It is unknown if Cheaney, whom Washington drafted sixth overall in 1993, has another deal in the works. However, a source in Chicago said the Bulls expressed an interest in the past and that they were looking for a backup shooting guard who could challenge for a starting position.
Miami's top reserve front-court players, one of whom was bound for Washington, are Keith Askins, Clarence Weatherspoon, Mark Strickland and Dan Majerle. Majerle supposedly has come to terms on a one-year contract with a team-option for a second season with Miami in the past few days.
Meanwhile, Wizards first-round draft pick Richard Hamilton remains unsigned. He fired his agent, Al Irby, over the weekend and is searching for a new representative. League rules stipulate that Hamilton can earn a maximum of $5.9 million over three seasons. Hamilton agreed to those terms before firing Irby.
By signing Thorpe to the veteran's exception -- which allows NBA teams to exceed the $34 million salary cap -- the Heat added another $2 million to their already high payroll. That would make it even tougher for Miami to orchestrate a deal to acquire Richmond, a free agent whom they are trying to acquire in a sign-and-trade deal.
Miami has to clear room under the salary cap to accommodate Richmond's desired first-year salary, which likely would be at least $10 million. The Heat has tried unsuccessfully to find a third team that is under the salary cap to ease its burden.
Numerous league sources said other teams that are supposedly interested in Richmond are close to resorting to secondary choices because it has been difficult to find ways to acquire Richmond, a six-time all-star.
Richmond had hoped to reach a deal quickly to avoid having his options limited, but with the free agent signing period four days old, his fears are on the verge of materializing, the sources said.
Richmond was the top priority of the Seattle SuperSonics, but they supposedly are close to coming to terms with Dallas forward Gary Trent because they cannot create enough room under the salary cap to acquire Richmond either as a free agent or in a sign-and-trade deal.
Richmond recently turned down a proposal from Golden State that would have paid him roughly $30 million, two league sources said.
Wizards Notes: Forward Lorenzo Williams underwent an MRI exam Tuesday on the right knee he injured during the team's minicamp two weeks ago. Results were inconclusive and further tests are pending. Williams spent all of last season on the injured list with stress fractures in both feet. . . . The Wizards officially hired Butch Beard as an assistant coach.