Bullets invite 17 to their minicamp But draftees unlikely to attend


The Washington Bullets have invited 14 rookies, free agents and former NBA players plus three roster holdovers to their three-day minicamp at Bowie State, which starts Saturday.

But it appears unlikely their two 1992 draft choices -- forward Tom Gugliotta of North Carolina State and guard Brent Price of Oklahoma -- will attend.

Gugliotta, the No. 1 pick (sixth overall), and Price (32nd) are represented by Richard Howell of Atlanta.

Bullets general manager John Nash has been particularly eager to sign Gugliotta in time for minicamp, but more importantly, before the 15-day, $17.8 million offer sheet the Knicks made to forward Harvey Grant expires July 17.

If Howell plays a waiting game, and the Bullets first match the Knicks offer to Grant, it would leave little, if any, money in the $14 million salary cap to satisfy Gugliotta, who reportedly is seeking close to $2 million a year.

Gugliotta's main option would then be choosing to play in Europe until a more favorable contract can be worked out with Washington. But, at the moment, Howell was not considering this alternative.

"We've been holding ongoing negotiations with Nash and would like to get Gugliotta signed shortly," said Howell. "I'm a big believer in players going to rookie camp. I'm encouraged by our progress, but you never want to be too optimistic."

Howell said that he has not tried to parlay the Bullets' dilemma in re-signing Grant into a more favorable bargaining position for Gugliotta.

"We began our talks before the Grant situation evolved. I don't think it's a good idea to tie the two contract situations together."

In the past two years, Bullets draft picks attended the minicamp before signing NBA contracts. In 1990, second-round selections A.J. English and Greg Foster participated, and last year, first-round choice LaBradford Smith reported to the July camp.

Smith, a 6-foot-3 guard from Louisville who missed training camp and the first 27 regular-season games with a severe ankle sprain, will be at this year's minicamp along with veteran guard Rex Chapman and second-year forward Larry Stewart.

"We want to see how Smith and Chapman have recovered from their physical problems," said coach Wes Unseld, "and Stewart can just use the added experience."

Stewart, a free agent from Coppin State, was the find in last year's minicamp. He made the team, became a starter and was voted to the NBA's All-Rookie second team after averaging 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds.

RTC With a sudden shortage of proven forwards on the roster, Unseld willbe taking a hard look at two players with limited NBA experience -- Tony Massenburg, the former Maryland star who played briefly for the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, and Ian Lockhart, a 1990 Tennessee graduate who appeared in one game with the Phoenix Suns two years ago.

Assistant coach Chuck Douglas has induced several attractive free-agent candidates, most notably Craig Upchurch, a 6-8 forward, who was projected as a draft choice after averaging 15.7 points and 6.5 rebounds for Houston. Upchurch won All-SWC honors three straight years.

Small forward Damon Patterson, a teammate of Price's at Oklahoma who led the Sooners in scoring (20.6) last season, and Rod Sellers, a strong rebounding forward from Connecticut, are long shots.

Looking to renew NBA ties are 6-10 forward Mike Smith of Brigham Young, who was the Boston Celtics' No. 1 choice in 1989, and 7-foot center Gary Leonard of Missouri, the Minnesota Timberwolves' second-round choice that same year.

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