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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Artest poised to join Kobe, Lakers in surprise move

HOUSTON (AP) Ron Artest is teaming up with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

News photo
Trading places: Free agent Ron Artest (right) will leave the Houston Rockets to play for the Los Angeles Lakers next season, while Trevor Ariza (left) will do the opposite. AP PHOTO

David Bauman, Artest's agent, said that the Houston Rockets forward has verbally agreed to play for the NBA champions next season. Bauman said the final details are still being worked out, but could be finished as early as Thursday night.

ESPN.com reported that Artest had agreed to a three-year deal worth $18 million. Bauman would not confirm those numbers, saying the deal was still being negotiated.

"We're not quite there yet," Bauman said. "We're still working on it."

The 201-cm earned $7.4 million in his only season with Houston, averaging 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists. The 2004 Defensive Player of the Year was also a rugged 1-on-1 defender, often assigned to guard the opponent's most dynamic scorer.

Bauman said Artest was looking for a championship-caliber team when he became an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, and the Lakers were one of his top choices.

"He wants to win a ring," Bauman said. "He's a winner and a hard worker and he went looking for a team with whom he could find some justification for what he does. He plays his best when he's in that kind of an environment."

Artest could not immediately be reached for comment.

He told CBSSports.com that he met with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and coach Phil Jackson. In a text message to ESPN.com on Thursday night, Artest wrote: "I am happy to say I am goin' to L.A."

Earlier Thursday, Bauman said Artest was being courted by several teams that made the playoffs last season and received text messages from unspecified "superstars" who were trying to lure him to their cities. Bauman would not say if Bryant was one of those players, but acknowledged on Thursday night that their friendship was a factor in Artest's decision.

"The whole situation was extremely appealing to Ron," Bauman said.

Artest's decision is another tough blow to the Rockets, who acquired Artest in a trade with Sacramento last summer. The Rockets envisioned Artest as the final piece to a "Big Three" with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, but those two All-Stars are now dealing with long-term injuries.

Rockets land Ariza

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Rockets have reached a multiyear deal with free agent Trevor Ariza, a person familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday night.

The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because NBA rules prohibit announcing free-agent deals until next week, said the Rockets offered Ariza the full mid-level exception for the first year, about $5.6 million.

Ariza is coming to Houston just as Ron Artest decided to leave and play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Ariza is likely to take Artest's spot in the Rockets' starting lineup.

The 203-cm Ariza averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Lakers last season, which ended with the NBA championship.

The 24-year-old Ariza earned $3.1 million last season and he boosted his value during the playoffs, when he averaged 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Knicks want Kidd

NEW YORK (AP) Donnie Walsh says he will consider giving more than a one-year deal to a free agent, following a report that he plans to do that with Jason Kidd.

ESPN.com, citing sources close to the process, reported Thursday that the Knicks would offer a three-year deal to the point guard. The Knicks hosted Kidd and his agent Wednesday on the first day of free agency and are hoping he'll leave Dallas to come to New York.

The midlevel exception is $5.6 million for the first year, and Walsh said last week he wouldn't give a multiyear deal to a free agent unless he could move another contract off his payroll.

Walsh backed away from that a bit Friday.

"I have a little leeway which will leave me in good position for next year," he wrote in an e-mail. "I know what it is but do not talk much about it."

Gordon speaks out

CHICAGO (AP) A day after jumping to Detroit, Ben Gordon told a Chicago radio station Thursday that the Bulls never made a contract offer even though general manager Gar Forman claimed re-signing him was their No. 1 priority.

"I mean they didn't pursue me at all. They didn't even make an offer so it was pretty much a one-man race," Gordon told ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago.

Gordon agreed to a five-year deal worth $50-plus million with the Pistons on Wednesday.

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