Determined to sign Gugliotta, Bullets may sweeten offer


Washington Bullets general manager John Nash said yesterday that he will continue to negotiate with the agent of first-round draft choice Tom Gugliotta in an effort to keep the 6-foot-10 forward from signing with Stefanel Trieste of the Italian Basketball League.

"We'll make every effort to put Gugliotta in a Bullets uniform this season," said Nash.

That Gugliotta returned from Trieste last week without a signed contract gave the Bullets another chance to bargain with his agent, Richard Howell of Atlanta.

Nash had suggested that the Bullets, because of salary cap restrictions, could not offer Gugliotta more than $780,000 -- the salary slot currently filled by swingman Ledell Eackles.

But Nash hinted yesterday that he might find ways to raise the ante. The Bullets could consider trading suspended forward John Williams or asking several of their players to take salary deferments to make room for Gugliotta.

According to a story in Tuesday's La Gazetta dello Sport, Italy's principal sports paper, Stefanel offered Gugliotta a two-year deal worth $1 million a year tax-free, plus the usual perks of a car and condo.

The Bullets had offered Gugliotta $1.35 million in the first year of a five-year $10.7 million deal, but that was taken off the table after Washington was forced to match New York's $10.7 million offer to veteran forward Harvey Grant.

Nash and Howell have held preliminary talks on second-round selection Brent Price, a point guard from Oklahoma. This is the first time the Bullets have made an offer to Price, who opted to miss the team's July minicamp at Bowie State.

"There are more ways to find room in the salary cap for a second-round pick," said Nash.

Howell said Price would consider playing overseas or for Athletes In Action, a church-connected team, if the Bullets' offer is inadequate.

NOTE: Former Maryland star Tony Massenburg, who was released by the San Antonio Spurs last season, reportedly has signed to play in Spain this season. Massenburg auditioned for the Bullets this summer but was not offered a contract.

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