In a move that may mark the beginning of the end of stalled contract negotiations, Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin met for an hour with top draft pick Juwan Howard yesterday afternoon at USAir Arena.
The result of the meeting: Pollin has asked general manageJohn Nash to "take a new approach" in contract talks with Howard and his agent, David Falk. The Bullets reportedly are offering Howard $30.7 million over 10 years; Falk is seeking a six-year, $24 million contract for his client.
"Juwan expressed his desire to play for the Bullets this seasonand I told him I would not have drafted him with the fifth pick if I didn't want him to play for the Bullets," Pollin said in a statement released by the team. "Following our meeting, we shook hands, and I told him I hope to see him soon."
Exactly what the new approach will be is unknown, but yesterday's meeting seems to open the lines of communication. Falk said Wednesday those lines had been closed for almost a month.
Falk did not return phone calls yesterday. Falk said oWednesday that he knew nothing of a meeting between Howard and Pollin.
Nash, for the second day in a row, said, "I'd rather not comment.Howard, No. 1 pick Glenn Robinson (Milwaukee Bucks) and No. 8 pick Brian Grant (Sacramento Kings) are the remaining unsigned top 10 choices.
The fourth pick of the draft, Donyell Marshall, and the sixth pickSharone Wright, already have signed -- Marshall for a reported $4.7 million a year with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Wright for a reported $3 million a year with the Philadelphia 76ers.
"I am very hopeful we can come to terms in the near future witJuwan Howard," Pollin said. "John Nash will present a new approach to David Falk in the near future, and they will proceed to negotiate."
As Howard's absence continues, it's business as usual for the Bullets, who left town yesterday for back-to-back exhibition games against the Indiana Pacers and the Dallas Mavericks. The Bullets will face the Pacers tonight in Evansville, Ind., and the Mavericks tomorrow in Dallas.
The Bullets, who split their first two preseason games last weekwill get their first look at forward Tom Gugliotta in exhibition play. Gugliotta missed the first two games with a dislocated ring finger on his left hand.
"It was frustrating to watch, but I'd rather sit out those gamethan the opener," Gugliotta said yesterday. "You get a chance to sit and see what the team needs. I didn't want to, but I think it helped me out a little bit."
Coach Jim Lynam had Rex Chapman playing some point guaryesterday, and plans to continue giving his best outside shooter some minutes there, spelling Scott Skiles. But he won't turn him loose at the point in the two coming games.
"I'm not rushing into it," Lynam said. "You don't want a guy to come in who hasn't played both [guard positions] to all of a sudden be worried in a new system. When I feel it's time, we'll do it."