The Los Angeles Lakers are not content to stand pat in defense of their latest championship.
They reached an agreement Thursday with Houston Rockets free agent forward Ron Artest on a five-year deal using the team's mid-level exception that would pay Artest a little more $32 million based on last season's mid-level amount of $5.585 million. Artest will have an out in the contract after the fourth season, according to a source, and will be allowed to make the contract into a three-year deal if he changes his mind between now and next Wednesday, the first official day that players can sign contracts for the 2009-10 season.
The 29-year-old Artest might be inclined to go for a shorter deal to give him the chance at another contract after this one expires. By signing for three years, Artest would regain his "Larry Bird" rights, which allow a team to go over the salary cap in order to re-sign its own players and pay those players an additional year's salary. That would also apply if Artest wanted to leave the Lakers after three years; he'd get an additional year if the Lakers agreed to a sign-and-trade deal for him.