Etan Thomas said yesterday that he desperately wants to remain with the Washington Wizards, but he's still unsure if the team feels the same way.

On Wednesday, Thomas signed an offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks, reportedly for six years and more than $36 million. The Wizards have until July 29 to match the offer, and a source familiar with management's thinking said they plan to.

"I hope they do," said Thomas, a power forward, who averaged 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. "I understand that it's a business, but my preference is to play here. I'm comfortable here. I like the system here, and I like my teammates. This is home, so I hope this is where I get to play."

The 6-foot-10 Thomas has played for Washington since midway through his rookie year in 2000. He emerged slowly -- a broken toe limited him to 85 games combined during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons -- before breaking out last season.

Washington has two capable post-up players in Kwame Brown and Brendan Haywood, leaving Thomas to come off the bench.

"Milwaukee is kind of desperate for a big man and I'm not even a starter here," Thomas said. "I mean, they've got a lot of big guys here. I'm not trying to talk them out of matching the offer, but those are the facts."

Thomas sat courtside next to Wizards owner Abe Pollin at MCI Center yesterday to watch an afternoon Washington Mystics game. When Pollin was asked if Thomas would stay with the Wizards, the owner said, "I sure hope so. I hope so."

"We've got a great relationship," Thomas said. "I know he respects me, and I know he likes me as a person.

"I really don't know what's going to happen, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. My guess is they'll take the whole 15 days to decide, so I've got a long time to wait."