The Washington Wizards, in search of a starting power forward, apparently will turn their attention toward free agent Chucky Brown after Grant Long and Dickey Simpkins came to terms with other teams yesterday.
Long, the free agent Washington most desired after failing to land Mark Bryant and Samaki Walker, signed a three-year deal with the Vancouver Grizzlies, two sources confirmed. Long agreed to terms last week with Vancouver but then contemplated signing with the Wizards instead.
Simpkins, a Fort Washington native who said he wanted to play for the Wizards, agreed to a one-year deal to remain with the Chicago Bulls. Washington had moderate interest in Simpkins but he was not regarded as highly as a handful of other free agents, according to a team source.
The Wizards lost last year's starting power forward, Otis Thorpe, to free agency and traded center-forwards Ben Wallace and Terry Davis to Orlando for center Ike Austin. Washington signed power forward Aaron Williams, who spent the past two seasons, predominantly as a reserve, with the Seattle SuperSonics.
Brown, at 6 feet 8, is not a prototype Eastern Conference power forward in terms of size but, Charlotte won 14 of the 18 games he started last season. Brown, 31, is considered a strong defender with a consistent mid-range jump shot.
Since they have exceeded the salary cap, the Wizards have only the NBA-allotted $2 million exception to spend. The exception can be split or used as the first-year salary of a multiyear contract.
It is unclear whether Washington will offer Brown the full exception. Brown's agent, William Neff, said Brown likely would not play for the Wizards unless they paid his client more than the $1 million minimum salary for which Brown is eligible since he has 10 years of NBA tenure.
Neff has talked with the Wizards over the past few days, including yesterday, though Neff said the discussions were not overly serious. Wizards General Manager Wes Unseld declined to comment on any of yesterday's developments.
If Washington does not sign Brown, Coach Gar Heard said he would go into training camp with Williams as the starter. Starting small forward Juwan Howard and/or injury-prone Lorenzo Williams would spell Aaron Williams. Rookie center Calvin Booth could also be used there as could camp invitees Jason Lawson and Jonathan Kerner.
The Wizards also have an eye on Orlando, which has more than 20 players under contract but can only keep 15. It is believed that at some point before the season Orlando may release forwards Armon Gilliam, Harvey Grant, a former Wizard, and/or Michael Smith if it can not trade them. The Wizards could sign any waived player to a minimum-salary contract.
Washington is not pursuing trades because it dealt four players in the trade for Austin. Heard also said he would not break up the starting nucleus or move some key reserves such as Williams, guard Chris Whitney or forward Tracy Murray.
Wizards Notes: Guard James Collins, who played on Washington's summer league team, will attend the Wizards' training camp, according to team sources. Collins, a 6-3 shooting guard who can also play point guard, spent last season in the CBA after playing for the Los Angeles Clippers as a rookie in 1998-99. . . .
An NBA charity exhibition game scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at George Washington's Smith Center has been canceled, the promoter announced yesterday. Tickets will be refunded at all TicketMaster outlets.