Leon Rose, the agent for 76ers guard Lou Williams, confirmed Saturday that the team's leading scorer will opt out of the final year of his contract. Williams becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Williams, 25, was due $6.39 million next season.

While Williams is opting out of his deal, it does not guarantee that he will not return to the team. Under the terms of the new collective bargain agreement, if the Sixers wanted to sign Williams to an extension before his contract expired at the end of next season they would only have been able to extend him for three more seasons. Now they can offer him a five-year deal while other teams can only offer Williams four years.

"I know Lou loves the fans, the city, the organization, his teammates and has the utmost respect for coach Collins and his staff," Rose said Saturday night. "Based on what Lou has done in terms of production on the court, leadership and excepting his role off the bench for the betterment of the team, I also believe the Sixers will step up to keep him like they did last summer with Thad [Young].

Teams can begin negotiating with potential free agents July 1. Deals can be signed between players and teams July 11.

   - John N. Mitchell