Richard Hamilton and Calvin Booth, the Washington Wizards' choices in June's NBA draft, signed their contracts with the team yesterday after passing mandatory physical examinations.
Hamilton, the seventh selection overall from the University of Connecticut, signed a three-year deal for slightly more than $5.9 million, the maximum allowed under the NBA wage scale for first-round draft choices. The Wizards also can exercise an option for a fourth season for $2.65 million and can sign him to an extension before his fifth season, or match any offer after that season.
"This guy is famous now but he's going to be a heck of a lot more famous when he helps the Wizards win the championship," owner Abe Pollin said. "We're out to have a very competitive team. We are going to be in the playoffs this year."
Booth, a 6-foot-11 shot-blocking expert from Penn State and the 35th pick overall, declined to disclose the length of his deal. But since the Wizards have exceeded the salary cap, his first year's pay will be the rookie minimum of $301,875.
"We feel both of these young men have the ability to come in and help us be a better team right away," General Manager Wes Unseld said.
Booth, the Big Ten career leader in blocked shots, showed up for yesterday's news conference at MCI Center wearing workout clothes. Afterward, while Hamilton answered questions from the media, Booth went downstairs to work on a treadmill for about 45 minutes to improve his conditioning, an area both new coach Gar Heard and Unseld are emphasizing this season.
Hamilton again wore his lucky U-Conn. practice shorts under a spiffy suit, as he did on draft day at MCI Center. The most outstanding player in this season's NCAA Final Four, Hamilton said he resumed full-speed workouts about two weeks ago after recovering from a sprained right ankle he suffered the first day the U.S. national team practiced in Puerto Rico for an Olympic qualifying tournament.
He said he is keen to begin strength and conditioning drills. "I consider strength and conditioning to be part of the game, just like offense and defense," Hamilton said.
Unseld said both players need to improve in these areas. Until Hamilton does, Unseld said, he sees him playing more as a backup at guard to Mitch Richmond than at small forward. "I think Mitch is more suited to play [small forward] than Hamilton at this point," Unseld said. "Did you see him [when he signed]? No wonder they call him 'The Rock.' "
Hamilton, who averaged 21.5 points per game last season, said he does not think of himself in terms of being a shooting guard or a small forward. "I see myself as a player," Hamilton said, adding that improved strength will gain him additional playing time.
Hamilton reportedly had twice reached agreements in principle with the Wizards before signing, and fired his first agent, Al Irby, earlier in the negotiations. He replaced Irby with Washington-based agent Bill Strickland.
There are only a few negotiable items in wage-scale contracts, such as the schedule of salary payments and conditions under which the contract is guaranteed. Neither Hamilton, Strickland nor Unseld would discuss specifics of either deal.
"I'm happy with Bill Strickland," Hamilton said. "You just know certain things are for you and certain things aren't. That's for everybody, regardless of what you do."
Wizards Notes: Unseld said the Wizards may wait a couple of weeks before signing another power forward. The team has 11 players under guaranteed contracts and a $2 million salary-cap exception available. . . . Hamilton presented the U-Conn. jersey he wore in the NCAA championship game and a chunk of the floor to MCI's National Sports Gallery.