- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2008

From the start of the offseason, Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin and team president Ernie Grunfeld made clear their intentions of re-signing both of their All-Star free agents - Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas.

Tuesday afternoon Pollin and Grunfeld flanked Jamison at a news conference to announce the forward’s four-year, $50 million extension that both sides agreed to Monday. Although frail - having to ride a motorized cart to the table and sit in a padded recliner - Pollin declared the Wizards had taken the first step toward keeping their promise to their fans and maintaining their championship aspirations.

“My goal is to win a championship,” he said. “I know I’m a little old and a little sick. But I’ll be around until we make the [gosh-darned] championship. I’m a little stubborn like that.”

Three hours before the news conference, Pollin called Arenas, who was on layover in Toronto during a flight to China, and told the guard, “You’re my guy, and I won’t let you leave no matter what.”

Pollin’s promise came after the Wizards offered Arenas a max contract worth $127 million over six years during the early hours of Tuesday morning - right after the free agency period began just after midnight. About the same time, the Wizards told their other unrestricted free agent, backup guard Roger Mason Jr., that they intended to re-sign him after Arenas.

The Wizards’ offer to Arenas was one of two max offers Arenas received Tuesday morning.

The Golden State Warriors - who unexpectedly lost point guard Baron Davis after he opted out of the final year of his contract worth $17.8 million - offered Arenas a five-year, $101 million deal, according to a source close to the Wizards guard.

Because Arenas is their free agent, the Wizards are permitted to offer him a six-year deal with a 10.5 percent increase of the deal that he opted out of last month. Opposing teams can offer him only five years.

Although the Wizards’ offer is for an extra year and $26 million, the source said that isn’t a deciding factor for Arenas, who missed 69 games last season while recovering from knee surgery.

But the Wizards’ offer, according to the source, carried more weight with Arenas because the guard has emerged as a star during his time in the District.

Arenas is close to agreeing to a deal with the Wizards, the source said, but he likely will take less than the max out of a desire to give the team more flexibility to re-sign Mason and/or another free agent this summer or future years.

Arenas, according to multiple sources, told the team he wants to wait until the NBA releases the salary cap and luxury tax figures for the coming year - which happens July 8. Then after seeing how much money the Wizards have to work with, he will decide how much “to leave on the table to help the team” and agree to a deal.

Jamison’s extension was an encouraging sign for Arenas, who had said he wanted to see the team re-sign the forward, who averaged 21.4 points and 10.2 rebounds last season, before he agreed to a new deal himself.

Jamison said he never worried about whether he would return to the Wizards because he had expressed his desire to management to re-sign, and Pollin and Grunfeld had held the same goal.

“There was no real time when I saw myself going anywhere else,” Jamison said. “From Day 1, Mr. Pollin and Mr. Grunfeld had shown me interest, and I told them I wanted to come back, and they told me they wanted me back as well. …

“I’m definitely excited. It was the reason why it was a no-brainer to come back here. If we are healthy, we will be dangerous.”

Jamison said Arenas sent him a text message Monday after hearing of his extension, and Jamison was “confident” that Arenas would re-sign. “He just likes to go at his own pace.”

Meanwhile, seven teams in addition to the Wizards contacted Mason on the first day of free agency.

The UVa product and D.C. native is coming off a career year in which he averaged 9.1 points off the bench and led the team in 3-point shooting percentage with .398.

Mason’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Tuesday morning he was scheduling multiple visits for Mason.

When reached later Tuesday, Mason said he would like to return to the Wizards, but he also would like the chance to have a more significant role on a team.

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