One of the key free agent dominoes fell yesterday when the Seattle SuperSonics and guard Ray Allen agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $85 million. As long as Allen officially signs the extension when he is eligible to do so on July 22, the league's other top free agents will move up a notch in the eyes of the NBA's guard-hungry teams.
Allen, a five-time all-star who will turn 30 on July 20, was considered the top free agent guard on the market.
The players most affected by Allen's deal will be Milwaukee's Michael Redd, who reportedly has been pursued by Atlanta and Cleveland; Washington's Larry Hughes, who is coming off the best season of his seven-year NBA career; and Phoenix swingman Joe Johnson, who is a restricted free agent entering his fourth season.
There is also a possibility that two-time all-star Michael Finley could be on the market if the Dallas Mavericks choose to release him for salary purposes.
The Wizards and Hughes's agent, Jeff Wechsler, have been in contact regarding a new contract and Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld has called the re-signing of Hughes the team's top offseason priority.
Hughes, 26, is coming off a season in which he averaged 22 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He was named to the NBA's all-defense team, and led the league in steals (2.8) while sharing ball-handling duties with all-star point guard Gilbert Arenas.
The Wizards have seven players under contract for next season -- Arenas, Jarvis Hayes, Brendan Haywood, Antawn Jamison, Jared Jeffries, Peter John Ramos and Etan Thomas -- but only Arenas and Hayes are guards. Hayes is coming off a knee injury and may not be at full speed until training camp opens in October. Point guard Steve Blake is a restricted free agent and shooting guard Juan Dixon is a free agent.
The Wizards may also consider keeping one of the point guards on their summer league roster. Ed Cota, a teammate of Jamison and Haywood at the University of North Carolina; Gerald Fitch, one of the team's final cuts at the end of training camp last October; and undrafted rookie free agent Donnell Taylor, a star at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, will vie for training camp invitations and a possible roster spot when the Wizards open summer league play today in Las Vegas.
Hughes, who missed 21 games with a broken thumb, expressed a desire to return to Washington following the Wizards' second-round playoff loss to Miami, but also said he would test the free agent market. Under terms of the NBA' s new collective bargaining agreement, teams and free agents were eligible to begin contract negotiations on July 1.
Teams can officially sign players on July 22 as long as the new CBA is ratified. However, that date could be pushed back because the league and players' union are still ironing out several details in the deal.
Wizards' summer schedule, roster, E5