Washington continues to fortify void left by Hughes

Updated: July 20, 2005, 9:13 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The Seattle SuperSonics suffered another free-agent defection Tuesday night when guard Antonio Daniels reached a verbal agreement with the Washington Wizards on a five-year contract worth an estimated $30 million.

Daniels was also a prime target of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Tony Dutt, Daniels' Houston-based agent, said Daniels will join the Wizards as soon as the moratorium on free-agent signings is lifted Friday, which the league has scheduled as the first day free agents can sign new contracts.

"The more we talked with Washington, we just felt very comfortable," Dutt said. "When Larry Hughes went to Cleveland, it just became a perfect fit for Antonio."

Daniels will join Caron Butler as the Wizards' two-pronged answer to the loss of Hughes, who is coming off a breakout season. Team officials are forbidden from commenting on the signing until the moratorium is lifted, but NBA front-office sources indicate Washington was drawn to Daniels for his playoff experience, athleticism and defensive skills.

Butler will be acquired from the Lakers in a sign-and-trade featuring Kwame Brown after the moratorium is lifted. The teams verbally agreed to the deal last week, but the Lakers have also been pursuing Daniels hard by offering the 6-foot-4 guard an equal starting salary -- but not as long a contract as the Wizards.

New coach Phil Jackson, whose fondness for long-limbed guards is well-known, had been hoping to pair Daniels in the Lakers' backcourt with Kobe Bryant.

Daniels thus becomes the third prominent member of Seattle's 52-30 team to leave the club this month. The Sonics quickly reached a verbal agreement to retain leading scorer Ray Allen, but coach Nate McMillan (Portland) and center Jerome James (New York) have since departed.

Daniels averaged 11.2 points and 4.1 assists for the Sonics last season, but proved even more effective in the playoffs when he joined Allen and Luke Ridnour in a three-guard attack. The ability of all three to handle the ball, penetrate and create offense on the perimeter enabled Seattle, though short-handed, to stretch eventual champion San Antonio to six games in the second round.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics