Sunday, March 16, 2003

Stackhouse may test the market

Could reject guaranteed $14M for next season

Enquirer news services

Jerry Stackhouse has a $14 million decision to make by mid-June, and it sounds as though he's ready to give up that much guaranteed money in order to test the free agent market this summer.

It could be a risky move.

Stackhouse is hoping to get a six- or seven-year contract starting at a salary of at least $8 million, although there will be only a limited number of teams with enough salary cap space to accommodate his wishes.

In a crowded free agent market that will include Jason Kidd, Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller, Michael Olowokandi and Gilbert Arenas, there is a potential imbalance in supply vs. demand that could dry up the available dollars.

Stackhouse might still re-sign with Washington, but at a starting salary that might not be as high as he would have liked.

"That's always the case. That's part of the business and the chance you take," Stackhouse said. "But I pay someone (agent Jeff Schwartz) a nice chunk of money to try to decipher through that and give me advice. Hopefully he'll steer me in the right direction."

Stackhouse is averaging a team-leading 22.0 points for the Wizards, who entered the weekend in ninth place in the Eastern Conference - a half-game behind Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff position.

OLYMPIC TALK: It seems Shaquille O'Neal will pass on a chance to represent the United States at the 2004 Olympics, but that's not stopping him from making personnel suggestions.

Amid reports Sacramento guard Mike Bibby and Utah forward Karl Malone would be the next to be named to the U.S. team, O'Neal ignored questions about Malone's proposal to pay NBA players for international competition but didn't pull any punches when it came to Bibby.

"How the (heck) did Mike Bibby get on the team? . . . Any Cub Scout with Boy Scouts can do Boy-Scoutish things," O'Neal said, apparently changing his preferred nickname for the Kings from the "Queens" to the "Boy Scouts." "When he was in Vancouver, nobody knew about (him)."

O'Neal reiterated his intentions - at one point in passing, he said, "I'm not going" - but expressed major objections about the selections.

"Allen Iverson is not on the team; why not?" O'Neal said. "Allen Iverson should be on the team. (Coach) Larry Brown should have said, 'If he's not on the team, I'm not going.' "

CUBAN'S MUTT-ERINGS: Owner Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks isn't happy with empty seats in arenas or low TV ratings. Both of those things help hold down revenues - and the lower the revenues are, the more luxury tax Cuban will have to pay.

On Wednesday, Cuban said the NBA still has a long way to go to get casual fans more interested.

"I look at the Westminster Dog Show pulling twice the ratings as Kings vs. Spurs and say, 'How can that be?' " Cuban said at a panel discussion at the World Congress of Sports, a gathering of media, marketing and sports business executives in New York.

"We can't market our way out of a paper bag," Cuban said. "We know more about the next 'Charlie's Angels' movie than any game of the NBA schedule."

BLANKING THE EAST: Thanks to Friday's win against the Raptors, Sacramento became just the fourth Western Conference team to win all its home games against East opponents in a season (not including the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season). The Spurs could join the Kings this season.

WIZARDS: The Wizards won't have Michael Jordan next season. But his retirement may not be the only departure Washington suffers.

Kwame Brown, the 2001 top draft pick, has not progressed as rapidly as the Wizards had hoped. He seems willing to accept a backup role instead of improving his game to a starter's level. Coach Doug Collins has been Brown's biggest supporter, pushing for the Wizards to draft him out of high school instead of trading the pick.

But that Brown-Collins relationship has deteriorated. If Jordan, as expected, returns to the Wizards' front office, expect him to explore opportunities to ship out Brown.

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