LAS VEGAS -- Trevor Ariza left for $8 million per year to the Houston Rockets, which is surprising to some in receiving a four-year deal. The reason the Wizards passed? Persons with knowledge of the situation told CSNwashington.com that he wanted $10 million and the Wizards wouldn't budge because they have an eye toward 2016 free agency and wanted to keep flexibility with the salary cap. In other words, Kevin Durant.
While they thought they had a good chance at retaining Ariza, the Wizards were willing to risk letting the 6-8 defensive and three-point specialist leave. They offered Ariza, CSN has been told, $8 million per year, too, a modest bump above the $7.7 million that Ariza earned in 2013-14. By going to Houston, however, located in Texas which doesn't have state taxes, he'll pocket more of his salary. He also joins a playoff team with stars James Harden and Dwight Howard.
Without Ariza, the Wizards are counting on the development of rising second-year player Otto Porter, who had his best game as a pro in the opening game of summer league Saturday vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Porter scored a game-high 25 points and dominated in a 90-74 victory.
They have contingency plans to move forward without Ariza going outside the current roster, and they'll also have to make decisions on their own free agents such as Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Drew Gooden and Garrett Temple. Before free agency opened, the intention has been to retain Gooden, who still is being paid under the amnesty provision by the Milwaukee Bucks, and Temple. Seraphin is restricted but the Wizards need size off the bench. Booker appears likely to leave.
But back to Durant. There has been speculation all of last season about him coming up for free agency and leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to play in D.C., his hometown. But make no mistake, this isn't conjecture anymore. It's real. The hiring of David Adkins, who coached Durant in high school, from the University of Maryland's women's team as assistant coach to player development for the Wizards this past week isn't a coincidence.
The building blocks are being put in place now. Ariza is off the books and Porter, who is playing on a rookie scale contract, is a much cheaper option. Nene, who will make $26 million for the next two seasons, will be off the books as well.
LeBron James announced that he was going home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. In about two years, the Wizards want to at least put themselves in position to help the city's favorite son make a similar decision.
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