- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2001

Christian Laettner is a well-traveled veteran whose character often has been questioned, but that didn't stop the Washington Wizards from agreeing to a multiyear deal with the forward/center yesterday.
A league source confirmed an ESPN report that Laettner, who has played for five different teams since being taken with the third pick in the 1992 draft, will sign a four-year, $21 million deal with the team on or after July 18, the day free agents can sign contracts.
Yesterday, as the Wizards brought their three-day minicamp to a close, coach Doug Collins again pointed out Laettner's value, especially with young big men like first-round pick Kwame Brown and second-year man Etan Thomas, acquired last year from Dallas. Collins is prohibited by league rules from talking specifically about the deal.
"He's a very fundamentally sound player, and I think that he can help the players," Collins said. "We need guys who are down there helping these young big guys grow."
After averaging 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds with Dallas before being packaged in the Juwan Howard trade, the 6-foot-11 Laettner played much better in Washington, where he averaged 13.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 25 games with the Wizards.
Laettner never has lived up to the fanfare with which he entered the league. Collins would like to see Laettner go back to being the player he was at Duke.
"He was a terrific midrange shooter when he was at Duke and early in his career," Collins said. "I've watched him, and I don't know if he's lost confidence or whatever, but he's gone away from that and he's looking to drive everything to the basket."
The Wizards cut four players from their minicamp roster last night to get down to the 12 players they will take to Boston today, where the team will play six games in seven nights in the Shaw Summer League. Cut were Nate James, Kimani Ffiend, Lee Scruggs and Tony Jones. The Wizards play their first game against Boston tomorrow night.
Brown, the 19-year-old rookie, was one player who had nothing to worry about as the ax fell. The first player in league history drafted No. 1 directly out of high school, Brown admittedly got off to a rough start during minicamp. Part of the problem was he felt he had to live up to being selected No. 1. However, by yesterday's practice Brown appeared to be making the adjustment.
"I was a little nervous, but now I'm more comfortable," the 6-11 Brown said. "I have to learn that day in and day out I'm going to be faced with guys that are trying to bring it to me every day, so I can't let an injury or being stiff hold me back.
"One thing I learned from the first practice until now is that I don't have anything to prove to anyone," Brown continued. "The first and second day I came out and tried to do too much, and I overplayed and played myself off the court. But today I stayed in the system, and it felt better. This is a marathon, not a race."
When Laettner signs, David Vanterpool will become the only player on last year's roster without a contract. Last season the Wizards signed the former Montgomery Blair High School star 61 games into the season when it became clear the team needed another point guard with starter Chris Whitney out because of ankle injuries.
If the Wizards sign Vanterpool, it likely will be for the veteran minimum ($322,000), and it won't be until after they get a good look at him this week at the summer league.
Vanterpool's chances of rejoining the Wizards diminished somewhat last week after the team reached an agreement with former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Tyronn Lue for a two-year deal worth about $2 million annually. However, Collins did not rule out the possibility that Vanterpool who would be third on the depth chart behind Whitney and Lue, respectively might beat out one of the more highly touted point guards for a roster spot.
That has happened before under Collins. In his first season as the coach of the Detroit Pistons (1995-96), Collins cut Mark Macon who at the time earned $2 million a year to clear a roster spot for CBA graduate Michael Curry, who consistently outplayed and outworked Macon.
"If he comes in and beats somebody out, he's going to make the team," Collins said of Vanterpool.

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