Gugliotta to join Italian team for three-year deal


A source close to Washington Bullets first-round draft choice Tom Gugliotta said last night that "only the Ts have to be crossed" by the former North Carolina State star to complete his proposed three-year deal with Stefenel Trieste, a top-level team in the Italian Basketball League.

"It's strictly Tom's decision now," the source said. "He just has to make up his mind if he wants to play in Italy this year."

Gugliotta and his agent, Richard Howell, spent three days in Trieste last week meeting with executives of Stefenel, a leading Italian apparel manufacturer, and the team's coaches and players.

Gugliotta could not be reached for comment.

The source said the three-year pact was "considerably better" than the $4.2 million, three-year pact earlier reported.

Gugliotta reportedly is considering offers from several other European teams.

"Unlike the monopolistic policy of the NBA," the source said, "Tom can choose the European team, the city and coach that best suits him and gives him a chance to develop his talent."

Howell had rejected a five-year contract offer of $10.7 million by Washington last month before the Bullets matched the New York Knicks' $17.1 million offer sheet to forward Harvey Grant. That put the team more than $2 million over the $14 million salary cap. Subsequently, the Bullets matched San Antonio's four-year, $2.6 million offer to second-year forward Larry Stewart of Coppin State.

Due to cap restrictions, general manager John Nash insisted the Bullets would have to limit their offer to Gugliotta to the $780,000 salary slot currently filled by swing man Ledell Eackles, considered expendable.

The source argued that the Bullets could free up more money by trading forward John Williams, who's on medical suspension.

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