Is Etan Thomas Worth the MLE as a Wizard?

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

The Milwaukee Bucks will offer Etan Thomas a six-year MLE contract worth in excess of $35 million total. The Wizards would like to keep him, but is he worth that much money to ride the proverbial pine? Thomas would likely start on the Bucks squad but he would likely sub in on the Wizards for either starting center Brendan Haywood or starting power forward Kwame Brown. Is a center worth the mid-level exception to a team that would only use his as a reserve?

There's a deep question of "value" involved here. The market price of a player includes not just his salary but also the location he plays in, whether he starts or not, and what his championship or playoff aspirations are. Just because he is worth that much money to Milwaukee, where he would likely start and fill a hole left empty by Brian Skinner departing for Philadelphia, is he worth it to Washington?

Thomas is a fascinating guy who loves to read and write poetry and participate in political events. He will miss that about Washington, so it was kind of surprising to hear that he would agree to the term sheet with Milwaukee... unless he is hoping the Wizards match. It could just be a case of present the best available offer to your boss and let him match it.

The Wizards have indeed stated that they would likely match any offer to Thomas, though they backed off that statement slightly when it appeared he might be headed for a contract worth more than the MLE. Now that the Bucks are willing to pay him for six years, perhaps the Wizards should lock him in too.

On the other hand, Antawn Jamison can play the power forward, and Brown can at times sidle into center. Perhaps they could do without him? The real question is: is there somebody else worth the MLE that the Wizards would like to pursue? Or is there someone on the Bucks who the Wizards would like to do a sign-and-trade for?

The Wizards travel to the scorching sands of Las Vegas this week to participate in the Las Vegas Summer League from July 13-18 at the Cox Pavilion. Their first game will be against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, July 13, at 5:00 p.m. EDT/2:00 p.m. PDT. In addition to the Wizards and the Suns, the other teams participating in the Reebok Vegas Summer League are the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, and Orlando Magic. The complete Reebok Vegas Summer League schedule, likely to be carried on NBA TV, is as follows:

*Tuesday, July 13th - Phoenix - 5:00 p.m. EDT
*Thursday, July 15th - Orlando - 5:00 p.m. EDT
*Friday, July 16th - Boston - 7:30 p.m. EDT
*Saturday, July 17th - Cleveland - 7:30 p.m. EDT
*Sunday, July 18th - Boston - 5:00 p.m. EDT

For a comprehensive list of summer league results, view yesterday's NEWS@ Southeast report here.


The Associated Press write inThe Calgary Sun: In the wake of a report Michael Jordan is interested in buying the Miami Heat, team owner Micky Arison said yesterday the franchise is not for sale.Arison was out of town but responded to the report through a Heat spokesman. According to the Chicago Tribune, an unidentified source said Jordan has been in discussions with the Heat about joining the organization as an owner. Jordan's representatives at SFX did nothing to refute the report. 

Milton Kent ofThe Baltimore Sunwrites: The Milwaukee Bucks are poised to offer Washington Wizards reserve center Etan Thomas a six-year contract worth in excess of $35 million when the moratorium on NBA free-agent signings expires tomorrow, a source familiar with the negotiations said last night... According to the source, the Bucks are expected to offer Thomas the full mid-level exception, which should be around $5 million per season. Because Thomas, who has played three years, is a restricted free agent, the Wizards will have until July 29 to match the offer. Ernie Grunfeld, Washington's president of basketball operations, could not be reached for comment last night. However, previously,Grunfeld has indicated that the Wizards likely would match any offer for Thomas, a favorite of coach Eddie Jordan.

Gery Woelfel ofThe Journal Times Onlinewrites: Etan Thomas flew to Milwaukee on Sunday and met with Milwaukee Bucks officials on Monday. The Bucks are hoping Thomas makes a return trip at the end of the month. With a distinct need for an inside player, the Bucks have made the 6-foot-10, 260-pound Thomas their priority recruit during this summer's NBA free agency period... The Bucks apparently believe the Wizards won't expend big money to keep Thomas, who would likely be a backup to center Brendan Haywood and power forward Kwamee Brown in Washington.With the Bucks, Thomas would become an instant starter, especially since the team will lose Brian Skinner to the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency. Thomas, who is generally regarded as the best big man still available in free agency, was the 12th overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft by Dallas. He was then traded to Washington in a multi-player deal that also included Juwan Howard.