- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

Jerry Stackhouse felt the Detroit Pistons owed him something. Owed him for enduring losing seasons in the name of building a contender, which finally materialized last season with Detroit's 50-32 Central Division-winning season. Owed him for harnessing some of his offensive game to buy into a different concept instituted by first-year coach Rick Carlisle.

Stackhouse was not shown the loyalty he expected when he was dealt to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday in a six-player trade.

"It doesn't happen like that in all situations. It happens like that in a few situations, and unfortunately I was in one of those few situations," Stackhouse said. "I think my prayers were answered that I didn't have to go and be in a situation and give 110 percent and 110 percent of loyalty wasn't reciprocated back to me."

The question is, how long will he remain in that situation? It's certain Stackhouse will have a huge immediate impact on the Wizards, but because he is eligible to become a free agent at season's end, he might stay in Washington for only one year.

Stackhouse can opt out of his contract after the season, for which he will make $6.3million, and become a free agent.

Stackhouse said he could see himself re-signing with the Wizards but likely will test the market and try to land a maximum contract of about $12million a year.

"I'm going to play the year out and more than likely will opt out of my deal," Stackhouse said after being introduced at an MCI Center news conference. "It puts both of us in a good situation. It gives me an opportunity to come to a team that wants me to be here and at the same time, if it doesn't work out, we can go our [separate] ways, but I don't think anybody's thinking like that.

"[Re-signing with the Wizards] is the only way I look at it. I'm not looking at it as a pit stop. That's why I was happy that something happened when the team I was with didn't want to make a commitment."

Stackhouse is happy to find a more settled situation, and the Wizards are pleased knowing they made a deal that immediately improved their team. Stackhouse's eight years in the league and career 21.2 scoring average easily make him a more established shooting guard than Richard Hamilton.

Hamilton, who will make $2.68million this season, can become a free agent next summer and, entering his fourth season after being drafted No.7 overall in 1999, also will be looking to secure a large payday.

"We knew it was something we were going to have to deal with, whether it was Richard or Jerry," Wizards general manager Wes Unseld said. "I don't think I'm worried about it. I don't think he's worried about re-signing right now. There will come a time when we have to deal with that."

The Wizards eventually must decide whether they want to attempt to re-sign Stackhouse, 27, or go after one of the talented crop of other free agents available in a class generally regarded as the strongest in years.

Elton Brand, Jermaine O'Neal and Tim Duncan (if he chooses to opt out of his contract) will be among the free agent post players on the market next offseason. All will be potential targets for the Wizards, considering their lack of frontcourt depth.

Asked if the Wizards made this deal with an eye on their prospects next year, Unseld said, "To a degree. But as you will see, by the time you get into the offseason, there aren't going to be too many [high-caliber free agents] out there. They will all be extended. If you look at the numbers, not a lot of teams are banking on it. They are working toward watching the tax number."

The "tax number" is the point at which the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax will go into effect, or this season's salary cap of about $40million. With their current room under the cap, the Wizards should be in position next offseason to land a big-name player.

The question remains do they want that player to be Stackhouse?


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