Glove may fit

Glove may fit

Postby SWOL on Sat Jul 05, 2003 2:49 pm

Gary Payton spoke at some length with Phil Jackson on Friday afternoon, continued his near-daily dialogue with Shaquille O'Neal, and perhaps moved closer to joining Karl Malone in Los Angeles with the Lakers.

As a result of Malone's choosing championship possibilities over financial gain, the Lakers are expected to negotiate through the weekend with Payton and his representative, Aaron Goodwin.







"There's definitely a high level of interest," Goodwin said Friday.

Malone returned to his home in Salt Lake City, where he awaits the results of conversations between Payton, Goodwin and Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak. As Jackson and owner Jerry Buss are out of town, and given his contact with Jackson, Payton has decided not to travel to Los Angeles this weekend, and intended to consult with his family during negotiations.

Payton has given no indication he would accept the mid-level exception as a starting point on a multi-year deal, considered below market value for a player who made $12.6 million last season and is playing as if in the prime of his career. But if the Lakers were to come to an agreement with Payton -- free agents may not sign contracts until July 16 -- he would represent the final piece of what would be the Lakers' most productive off-season since 1996, the summer Jerry West signed O'Neal and traded for Kobe Bryant.

As Payton mulls his future, the Lakers hope his longtime relationships with Magic Johnson and O'Neal will sway his decision. It is believed that Johnson, vacationing in Hawaii, has also spoken to Payton about signing with the Lakers. Jackson was on the road to North Dakota when he reached Payton.

It is believed Payton would prefer to reach a contract decision quickly, whether it is with the Lakers or another team. Milwaukee Buck officials continue to maintain they would seek to retain Payton, even amid rumors the team would be stripped down to be sold. They might seek a sign-and-trade deal to receive some compensation for Payton, though Payton would have to approve it. The Lakers conceivably could pile in a handful of players to reach an acceptable salary for Payton.

Meantime, Laker management is not only ecstatic over Malone's decision to forgo a larger contract to make room for Payton, but pleased Malone appears to have chosen the Lakers over other interested organizations, such as San Antonio. In a gesture reminiscent of superstar Andre Dawson's blank-check signing with the Chicago Cubs 16 years ago, Malone has told the Lakers he would play for whatever fit their budget, assuming it facilitates would represent the final piece of what would be the Lakers' most productive off-season since 1996, the summer Jerry West signed O'Neal and traded for Kobe Bryant.

As Payton mulls his future, the Lakers hope his longtime relationships with Magic Johnson and O'Neal will sway his decision. It is believed that Johnson, vacationing in Hawaii, has also spoken to Payton about signing with the Lakers. Jackson was on the road to North Dakota when he reached Payton.

It is believed Payton would prefer to reach a contract decision quickly, whether it is with the Lakers or another team. Milwaukee Buck officials continue to maintain they would seek to retain Payton, even amid rumors the team would be stripped down to be sold. They might seek a sign-and-trade deal to receive some compensation for Payton, though Payton would have to approve it. The Lakers conceivably could pile in a handful of players to reach an acceptable salary for Payton.

Meantime, Laker management is not only ecstatic over Malone's decision to forgo a larger contract to make room for Payton, but pleased Malone appears to have chosen the Lakers over other interested organizations, such as San Antonio. In a gesture reminiscent of superstar Andre Dawson's blank-check signing with the Chicago Cubs 16 years ago, Malone has told the Lakers he would play for whatever fit their budget, assuming it facilitates the signing of Payton.

One by one, Kupchak, Jackson and Buss, along with the team's handful of consultants, are thought to have signed off on the acquisition of Malone. If he signs and then stays at least two seasons, Malone could pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and become the NBA's all-time scoring leader as a member of the Lakers.

While Laker officials believed the team needed to add a formidable power forward to return to its championship stature and believed Malone fit that requirement, it was Payton and an upgrade in the backcourt that was the summer's first priority.

Payton is rangy and savvy, a dynamic offensive player whose nickname, "The Glove," refers to his defensive skill. In a season in which their run of championships ended, the Lakers finished in the bottom half of the league in points allowed, field-goal percentage allowed and three-point percentage allowed.
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SWOL
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