Wizards pleased to re-sign Jamison, open talks with Arenas
WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday morning, Abe Pollin placed a call to free agent Gilbert Arenas, who was at a layover in Toronto on the way to China for a promotional trip on behalf of a shoe company.
In the afternoon, the 84-year-old Washington Wizards owner arrived via cart and was helped into a cushioned chair for a news conference for the newly re-signed Antawn Jamison. Although the body appeared frail, the voice and mind where strong and sharp.
"I'm getting a little old and a little sick," Pollin said. "But I'm still around, and I'm going to be around until we win the ... championship. I'm stubborn and hardheaded."
And determined to achieve his goal with the core group that has led his team to four straight playoff appearances. So far, half of the major offseason work has been accomplished.
While negotiations with free agent Jamison were relatively straightforward -- a four-year, $50 million deal that was signed Monday night -- the talks with Arenas will be much more complicated. The Wizards can sign the three-time All-Star point guard to a maximum deal worth roughly $125 million over six years, but Arenas has also said he doesn't want to hamstring the team's ability to sign other players.
Under NBA rules, the Wizards couldn't start negotiating with Arenas until the start of the free agency period on Tuesday -- Jamison's situation was different because Arenas became a free agent by exercising an opt-out clause. The team also can't comment on the talks with Arenas or announce a deal until a league-mandated moratorium expires July 9.
"We've contacted the players, and the process is going to play out," said president Ernie Grunfeld, referring to both Arenas and free agent guard Roger Mason.
Jamison's signing satisfies one condition in the talks with Arenas, who had said he would not return unless the team also kept his longtime teammate.
"I'm confident something will get done," Jamison said. "He just likes to go at his own pace."
Jamison, meanwhile, was lauded with praise from Pollin, who compared the team co-captain to Wes Unseld, who led the Wizards to their only NBA championship in 1978.
"Mr. Pollin, I love you," Jamison replied. "And I'm going to do everything possible to continue to make you happy."
Jamison is coming off perhaps the finest season of his 10-year NBA career: 21.4 points, a career-high 10.2 rebounds and a second appearance in the All-Star game. Although he's 32, Jamison said he's taken good care of himself and is confident he can continue to be a consistent 20-and-10 threat.
"I couldn't go anywhere else. This is where I'm going to end my career," Jamison said. "I totally believe that we have what it takes to hoist the trophy. That's my job. That's the reason I'm here."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press