Free agent forward Aaron Williams agreed to terms on a two-year, $2.3 million contract with the Washington Wizards yesterday, according to Wizards management. He is expected to sign the contract today, when he travels to Washington.
Landing Williams is the Wizards' first step in shoring up the power forward position, which has been depleted by the departures of Otis Thorpe, Ben Wallace and Terry Davis.
Williams, 28, is expected to be a high-energy shot blocker and rebounder as a reserve, much like Wallace was over the past two seasons. Williams's ability to run and his physical play on offense and defense helped make him the first free agent Washington signed this offseason.
"It's a great opportunity for me to come in there and get some minutes," said the 6-foot-9 Williams. "That's a big part of why I'm coming there. The possibility of playing some decent minutes was too hard to pass up. Plus the team is going to be a lot better than it was last year."
Williams spent the past two seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics, where he averaged three rebounds, four points and nearly one block in just more than 11 minutes per game.
He spent the previous three seasons with Denver, Vancouver, Utah and Milwaukee, where he played sparingly. Williams was in the Continental Basketball Association for three years before that.
"The past four or five years there have been a good number of guys that have really risen to new heights once given the opportunity," said Williams's agent, Mark Bartlestein. "We think Aaron's got that kind of ability. The Wizards pursued him aggressively."
A relatively unknown NBA player, Williams might best be remembered locally for his shot that helped propel Xavier over Georgetown in the 1990 NCAA tournament.
"That shot put us up for good," Williams said.
The Wizards plan to sign Williams to their $1.1 million exception the NBA provides for teams over the salary cap. Teams are allowed to sign players to multiple-year contracts. It is believed that Williams can opt out of the second year of his contract.
Washington still has its $2 million exception, which it plans to use on a starting power forward. The Wizards have expressed interest in free agents J.R. Reid, Corie Blount, Samaki Walker and Dickey Simpkins. Washington also spoke to the representative of free agent Greg Foster several weeks ago but it is believed talks have cooled.
The Wizards are seeking a defense-oriented forward, who can complement center Isaac Austin, forward Juwan Howard and guards Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond, who is expected to re-sign.
Lorenzo Williams is the only power forward under contract but injuries have limited him to 33 games over the past three seasons.
Wizards Note: Strickland's trial on drunken driving charges in D.C. Superior Court has been moved to Oct. 27, when the Wizards are scheduled to play the Celtics in Boston in a preseason game.