Thursday, July 5, 2007

A day after it was reported guard Juan Carlos Navarro would be allowed to negotiate his way out of his contract with FC Barcelona to join the Washington Wizards, team president Ernie Grunfeld said he already has received calls from six or seven teams regarding the Spanish player.

“We’ll weigh our options with him,” Grunfeld said.

Grunfeld would not identify those teams, but a league source said Cleveland and Memphis, among others, might be interested in the 6-foot-3 guard.

“[Navarro] is obviously a good player,” Grunfeld said. “He has been one of the best international players over the last five years. He”s a very good offensive player with a very good shot.”

The Wizards drafted Navarro, nicknamed “La Bomba,” with the 40th pick in the 2002 draft. But Navarro chose to continue playing in Spain, unlike former teammate Pau Gasol, who joined the Grizzlies. The Wizards retained Navarro’s NBA rights indefinitely.

Even though 27-year-old Navarro was considered one of the better international players not in the NBA, it was long believed he could not afford the more than $2 million buyout needed to leave his Spanish team and join the Wizards.

However the buyout, of which the Wizards can pay up to $500,000, has been reduced to between $1 million to $1.5 million.

As long as they hold his rights, the Wizards are the only NBA team with which Navarro can negotiate. The Wizards could opt to keep his rights or trade them.

Grunfeld said the Wizards’ plan will be determined by what happens with their eight free agents, among them DeShawn Stevenson (unrestricted) and Andray Blatche. The team has had contact with both players.

Navarro has played for FC Barcelona since he was a teen. He first came to the attention of American basketball fans when he led a Spanish roster that included Gasol to victory over the United States in the 1999 FIBA Junior World Championship.

In 2006, he was named MVP in the top Spanish professional league and was a member of the Spanish team that won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship.

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