- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Washington Wizards bolstered their backcourt Tuesday night by agreeing to a contract with Antonio Daniels, a free agent from the Seattle SuperSonics.

However, the move likely means either or both Juan Dixon and Steve Blake — two local favorites from Maryland’s 2002 NCAA champions — won’t be back.

Daniels, the backup point guard in Seattle last season, agreed to a five-year, $30 million contract he will sign once the moratorium on signing and trading players is lifted. That was supposed to happen tomorrow, but the date has been moved back possibly by as much as a week because the new collective bargaining agreement struck by the NBA and its players union has not been finalized.

Daniels adds another piece to a backcourt that has grown deeper despite the loss of Larry Hughes to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month. Point guard Gilbert Arenas, an All-Star last season, will be joined by Chucky Atkins and swingman Caron Butler, obtained in the trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for Kwame Brown.

The 6-foot-4 Daniels, now 30, was the fourth pick overall out of Bowling Green in 1997 by the then-Vancouver Grizzlies. Never a star, Daniels nonetheless is a solid and reliable player who is viewed as a plus in the locker room.

Last season in Seattle was Daniels’ best, with career highs in points (11.2) and assists (4.1). He also is regarded as a good defender.

According to a report out of Seattle, the Sonics were willing to give Daniels the mid-level exception for $5 million but were unwilling to go beyond three years because of his age and knee problems last season.

The Wizards are still looking to add a player in the frontcourt. They failed to do so when they lost out Monday on Donyell Marshall, who signed with the Cavaliers.

Washington is still interested in re-signing hard-working forward Michael Ruffin, who played well last season.

Meanwhile, Dixon and/or Blake could be headed out of Washington any day.

“I know that Juan loves Washington,” Dixon’s agent, Calvin Andrews, said last night. “But it probably wouldn’t make much sense for Juan to come back at this point. They’ve brought in a lot of guards. Who knows? Maybe there are some trades in play that I don’t know about.”

Andrews said he hopes to have a deal completed for Dixon, who visited Portland yesterday, “very soon.”

Miami and Cleveland have expressed interest in both former Terrapins.

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