- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2003

The Washington Wizards moved closer to making Gilbert Arenas their point guard of the future yesterday, offering him a multi-year contract with a salary believed to be between $6million and $7million in the first year.

The offer all but eliminates any chance that Arenas’ present team, the Golden State Warriors, will be able to match. The Warriors are over the league’s salary cap and can offer the free agent no more than $4.9million.

Arenas is more likely to sign with the Wizards because other teams that had salary cap space available, the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah, appear to have gone in different directions.

Neither Arenas nor his agent, Dan Fagan, were available for comment.

Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld and coach Eddie Jordan flew from Boston to meet with Arenas in the District. On Monday the two flew to Los Angeles to woo Arenas.

The fact that Arenas is facing a misdemeanor charge for possession of a concealed weapon and driving without a license in South San Francisco, Calif., last month has not dulled the Wizards’ interest, even though Arenas could be sentenced up to six months in jail if convicted.

Arenas is licensed to carry a gun in Arizona, where he played college ball, but not in California. He has not entered a plea, and his arraignment is Aug.5.

“From what we understand it seems like it was a minor offense,” Grunfeld said.

When pulled over for a traffic violation on June4 a search of his car revealed a .40-caliber handgun in a bag hanging from the back of the passenger seat. One source said yesterday that he “believed the gun did not have a clip” in it.

Although their chances of retaining Arenas dwindle by the day, the Warriors also see no need to be overly concerned with the charges.

“The event that took place over a month ago will not have an effect on our continued pursuit of Gilbert and trying to convince him and his representative that this is the best place for Gilbert to continue his budding career,” Warriors chief operating officer Robert Rowell said in a statement.

If Arenas signs with the Wizards it will represent a huge upgrade in the backcourt. The 6-foot-3 Arenas was spectacular last season, averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds en route to becoming the NBA’s most improved player.

The Wizards solidified their roster at shooting guard when they sweetened leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse’s contract to roughly $34million for four years.

Meanwhile, Stackhouse is due in court Aug.7 in Atlantic Beach, N.C., in connection with a misdemeanor assault of a female real estate agent. Stackhouse is also scheduled to appear in small claims court tomorrow in a related matter.

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