With contract negotiations at an impasse, Washington Bullets general manager John Nash said yesterday that he is prepared for the possibility of playing the upcoming season without first-round draft choice Tom Gugliotta, the All-ACC forward from North Carolina State who was the sixth player chosen in the 1992 NBA draft.
"I've never ever been as pessimistic in negotiating a contract," said Nash, who previously served as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Nash held a brief phone conversation yesterday with Gugliotta's agent, Richard Howell, of Atlanta.
"Nothing has changed financially, and we can't mortgage our whole team to sign an unproven player," added Nash, who said the Bullets, under salary-cap restrictions, cannot improve on their offer to Gugliotta of a five-year contract worth $10.725 million.
"The only way we can create more room is to renounce more of our veterans, and we're not willing to do that."
Nash had acknowledged that he agreed to renounce five veterans to provide maximum dollars in the cap for Gugliotta.
He did not identify the targeted players, but they were believed to be swingman Ledell Eackles ($780,000), forward Mark Alarie ($550,000), shooting guard David Wingate ($250,000), point guard Andre Turner ($130,000) and Haywoode Workman ($250,000), the guard whose rights the Bullets retained while he played in Italy last season.
Nash said Gugliotta would have to be signed within the next few days or the Bullets would first have to re-sign veteran forward Harvey Grant, who received a six-year offer sheet from the New York Knicks for a reported $17.061 million.
Washington accused New York with tampering by offering Grant a contract before July 1, an argument that will be decided by an arbitrator in New York on Tuesday.
In any case, the Bullets will likely have to match the Knicks' proposal by July 17. If this occurs, it would leave only $500,000 in the team salary cap for Gugliotta, or about one-quarter of the Bullets' offer.
Nash yesterday discussed another ongoing problem -- veteran forward John Williams, who missed last season with a weight problem. The Clippers had offered their second pick on the first round (25th overall) of the draft for Williams.
"I talked to John last week and reiterated [Bullets owner] Abe Pollin's position that we won't trade him. I told him his only option was to report to our October training camp in playing shape [260 pounds], and he said he would. But I believe I've heard that before."