Boykins opting out, will test free agent market

MILWAUKEE -- Earl Boykins will become a free agent, forgoing
the $3 million player option on his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Earl Boykins


Bucks general manager Larry Harris confirmed the 5-foot-5
Boykins, the second smallest player in NBA history, has given him
no indication he intends to fulfill the option year. Boykins has
until Saturday to notify the team if he plans to return.

"Earl is going to be a free agent," Harris said.

Boykins' agent, Mark Termini, did not immediately return calls
or messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Milwaukee acquired Boykins, along with Julius Hodge and cash,
from Denver for Steve Blake on Jan. 11 after injuries left the
Bucks without four of their five starters. Hodge was cut less than
a month later, but Boykins provided a lift for a team struggling
without injured star Michael Redd.

Boykins joined the Bucks during a stretch when the team went
3-17 after Redd went out with a strained left knee on Jan. 5.

Boykins scored in double digits in 24 of his 35 games in
Milwaukee, averaging 14 points and 4.5 assists. He twice had a
career-high 36 points in a game with the Bucks.

Harris said he wants to keep Mo Williams, likely the second-most
sought after point guard when free agency begins behind Chauncey Billups. But Harris has made it clear the Bucks will take the best
player available with the sixth pick on Thursday.

"We're focused on the three areas we need to have," Harris
said. "We need a point guard or point guards. We need a small,
athletic forward and we need a power player."

Boykins, a Cleveland native who still holds a summer basketball
camp there and talks fondly of his hometown, is a nine-year veteran
who has played part of two seasons with the Cavaliers, appearing in
47 games between 1998-2000. He also played for New Jersey, Orlando,
the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State before spending 3½
seasons with Denver, where he blossomed as a role player and
averaged a career high in points each year.

Boykins' decision leaves Milwaukee without much depth at point
guard. The team traded T.J. Ford to the Raptors last offseason to
acquire forward Charlie Villanueva.

That elevated Williams to the point position. Williams, who had
previously been a shooting guard, played effectively, setting
career high averages in points (17.3), rebounds (4.8) and field
goal percentage (44.5 percent). But he also set a career-high in
turnovers, averaging 3.0 per game.

Harris said he'd like to bring the well-liked Williams back, but
how much Williams asks for in free agency might take the Bucks out
of the bidding.

"I really can't start talking to him until July 1, but I know
his intentions are to stay here," Harris said. "We certainly are
looking forward to exploring those opportunities on July 1."

If the Bucks can't keep Williams and don't look to a point guard
in Thursday's draft, they'll be left with converting another
shooting guard, Charlie Bell, to the point, or elevating
little-known Lynn Greer.

Bell started 64 games, primarily because of Bucks' injuries.
Greer, who played overseas for four years before signing a free
agent deal last offseason, appeared in 41 games without a start,
but scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting in a career-high 32
minutes against the Hornets in April.