Free agent swingman Calbert Cheaney signed a three-year, $6.6 million contract with the Boston Celtics yesterday, roughly 24 hours after backing out of a sign-and-trade deal that would have sent him from the Washington Wizards to the Miami Heat.

Cheaney is the second free agent the Wizards have lost without getting a player or other compensation in return. Forward Otis Thorpe signed with the Heat on Wednesday.

The trade with Miami "didn't work out the way I had planned," Cheaney said about a swap that would have brought the Wizards forward Clarence Weatherspoon. "It's one of those things that happen. You just have to move on."

Meantime, the agent for Bulls free agent center Dickey Simpkins confirmed there have been discussions with the Wizards about Simpkins joining the team. However, a Wizards management source said the team does not necessarily plan to pursue a center with its $3.1 million in salary money that is set aside to sign free agents for teams that are over the salary cap.

Cheaney spent his first six years in the NBA with Washington, which chose him sixth overall out of Indiana University in 1993. He became a free agent after last season, the worst in his professional career. Cheaney averaged 7.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and shot 49 percent from the free throw line, all career lows.

Cheaney said he lost his passion for the game last season and that he needed a change in scenery. He added that he did not think he fit into the Wizards' plans, especially after the team's selection of swingman Richard Hamilton in the first round of the June draft.

"I really don't know what type of direction they're trying to head in," Cheaney said. "That did factor into the equation. Talks didn't go well during the summer. I didn't hear from them much. That might have been a hint from them that it wasn't going to work out with me being there."

After initially agreeing to the trade with the Heat early Wednesday morning, in which he would have had to sign with the Wizards first because he was a free agent, Cheaney said he woke up with a "gut feeling" that a move to Miami was not in his best interest.

A Wizards source said Washington was aware that Cheaney was in discussion with the Celtics.

"We've been working on Calbert for some time," Boston Coach Rick Pitino said. "We're delighted he has chosen us over a number of different teams."

Simpkins, 27, grew up in Fort Washington, starred at Friendly High School and went on to play at Providence College. He has spent five seasons in the NBA, mostly as a reserve, but last year had a breakthrough season, starting 35 of 50 games for a rebuilding Bulls team.

The Wizards need help at center, especially since Coach Gar Heard wants to move Ben Wallace and Terry Davis to power forward.

"There is an interest on Dickey's part in coming to Washington," said Sean Holley, Simpkins's agent. "Both sides, actually, have indicated interest. Dickey also has an interest in returning to Chicago and there also have been a handful of teams that have shown interest."

Though regarded mostly as a journeyman, Simpkins is part of an undistinguished selection of free agent centers that includes Will Perdue, Olden Polynice, Mark West, Greg Foster and Andrew Lang.