Bullets open without Gugliotta, but Ellis signing may close gap


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Tom Gugliotta, the Washington Bullets' No. 1 draft choice, was missing as expected when coach Wes Unseld took roll call of his rookies and free agents at training camp last night.

Under the NBA bargaining agreement, a player cannot participate in camp without a contract. Gugliotta, the sixth player chosen overall in the 1992 draft, remains unsigned.

But the 6-foot-10 forward from North Carolina State could be closer to coming to terms because Notre Dame forward LaPhonso Ellis, the fifth pick overall, signed a five-year deal yesterday with the Denver Nuggets worth a reported $13 million.

Bullets general manager John Nash had told Gugliotta's agent, Richard Howell of Atlanta, he would give the All-Atlantic Coast Conference forward "fair market value" based on what Ellis and the seventh choice, Maryland guard Walt Williams, were paid by the Nuggets and Sacramento Kings, respectively.

"We've got the ceiling," Nash said. "Now we have to see the bottom figure for Williams and go from there."

But Nash reiterated that in the Bullets' salary cap crunch, only unsigned Ledell Eackles' $780,000 slot is available. Gugliotta rejected the Bullets' previous offer of $10.7 million for five years before the team far exceeded the cap in July by matching the New York Knicks' $17.1 million, six-year offer sheet to veteran forward Harvey Grant.

NOTES: When Rick Calloway, a former Kansas forward who played briefly for Sacramento two years ago, defected to South America, the Bullets invited veteran swing man Pete Myers in his place. Myers, a 1986 Arkansas player who later played for Chicago, San Antonio, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey in the NBA, played in Italy last year. "We're looking for someone who can play both guard spots, and Myers has done that," Nash said. "He and [Tom] Garrick will get a good look." . . . Veterans Grant, Rex Chapman and Buck Johnson reported three days early. Second-year guard LaBradford Smith is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring pull.

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