- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Cleveland Cavaliers foiled the Washington Wizards’ offseason plans again yesterday, reaching an agreement with forward Donyell Marshall on a four-year contract.

Two weeks ago, the Cavaliers crumpled the Wizards’ plans when they reached an agreement in principle with Larry Hughes on a five-year deal reportedly worth $65-70million.

Washington, which had made re-signing Hughes its top priority, then turned its attention to Marshall, a free agent from the Toronto Raptors whom the Wizards figured could help them in the frontcourt. According to his agent, Andy Miller, Marshall planned to spend the weekend with the Wizards’ front office. Miller, who did not return phone calls placed to his office yesterday, also said last week that Washington “looked like a good” situation for the 32-year-old.

However, a league source said the Wizards were interested in giving Marshall a deal for only two years with their mid-level exception, which would have paid Marshall — likely signing his last professional contract — in the neighborhood of $11million.

The Cavaliers, who began the summer with approximately $21million committed to players next season — a huge luxury considering the salary cap for next season likely will be around $48million — simply have more salary flexibility.

Marshall spent all of last season on the trading block, but Toronto never made a deal. In a reserve role, he averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds and shot a career-best 42 percent from behind the 3-point line.

The Wizards are still looking for a frontcourt player. But with Stromile Swift signing with Houston and Philadelphia’s Samuel Dalembert out of their price range, the market is drying up quickly.

Meanwhile, the Wizards also are in danger of losing the services of former Maryland guards Juan Dixon and Steve Blake.

Dixon, an unrestricted free agent, is in Portland today to meet with the Trail Blazers, and there appears to be growing interest in him throughout the league. Other teams that want to talk to Dixon include Miami, Indiana, the Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle and Cleveland, which also has expressed interest in Blake.

So far this offseason, the Wizards have added Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins from the Lakers in exchange for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit. Butler, whom Washington wanted in 2002 when he was the 10th pick in the draft — one spot before the Wizards took Jared Jeffries — is capable of playing either shooting guard or small forward. Last season Butler averaged 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds.

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