- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

The Washington Wizards often times have been called “Clippers East,” an insult born out of sub-par basketball and numerous front office mistakes that have added up to 17 years without winning a playoff game.

That analogy will be put to the test over the next few days. Gilbert Arenas, the free agent the Wizards have targeted since the free agency period began earlier this month, will decide whether he wants to play for the Clippers or the Wizards. The answer could come as early as today.

Los Angeles, a team that does not traditionally dole out huge sums of money for its own free agents, let alone someone else’s, offered Arenas a $60 million contract, matching the amount the Wizards reportedly offered Arenas during a meeting with the player in Washington on Friday.

Arenas, a California native, has maintained he would like to remain on the West Coast. Arenas was the NBA’s most improved player last season after averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds for the Golden State Warriors.

It is uncertain whether the Wizards, who have approximately $8.5 million in cap space, will increase their offer to Arenas.

Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld does not address the financial terms of contracts. However, while watching the team’s final game in the Boston Summer League last night, Grunfeld indicated the Wizards were not ready to budge.

“We’ve done what we could do, and now it’s up to him to make a decision,” Grunfeld said. “I’m sure some other teams are still involved, and I’m sure he’s going to listen to what Golden State has to say. He knows what we have to offer.”

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

Plus, both Miami and Utah, teams with sizable cap space available, still are interested in Arenas.

That the typically thrifty Clippers are aggressively pursuing Arenas comes as a shock not only to the Wizards, but to others around the league as well.

After former Clippers center Michael Olowakandi signed a three-year, $16.2 million deal with the Timberwovles, it appeared as if the Clippers again were prepared to let other teams raid them for free agents.

However, the Clippers matched Miami’s six-year, $82 million offer to Elton Brand on Saturday. And reportedly they also are prepared to match Utah’s offer of $7 million a year to Corey Maggette and want to extend Lamar Odom at a similar salary.

“This is the first time they haven’t looked at their talent and said, ‘Oh, well. Someone else will have to pay you now,’” a league source said.

If the Wizards lose out on Arenas, something that appeared highly unlikely after Arenas, Grunfeld and Wizards coach Eddie Jordan met on both coasts this week, they will continue their pursuit of other point guards. Possibilities include Speedy Claxton, Kenny Anderson, Darrell Armstrong, Travis Best and former Wizard Chris Whitney.

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