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Evilmav2
07-07-2003, 12:58 PM
Agent: Payton won't be returning to Milwaukee

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By Marc Stein
ESPN.com


The agent for Gary Payton said Sunday that the All-Star guard has narrowed his list of prospective employers for next season to three teams, headlined by the Los Angeles Lakers.

It's a list that does not include the Milwaukee Bucks, according to agent Aaron Goodwin, even though the Bucks can outbid anyone for the 34-year-old free agent.

Amid ongoing talks with Lakers officials, who are limited to offering Payton a starting salary of just under $5 million, Goodwin told ESPN.com that the recently dethroned champions are "absolutely" Payton's preference. The only other teams Payton will consider, according to Goodwin, are Portland and Miami.

The Lakers also are said to be the first choice of Utah forward Karl Malone, who is reportedly waiting to see if L.A. lands Payton before agreeing to sign for a mere $1.5 million next season. That's the most the over-the-cap Lakers can offer Malone if they use their $4.9 million salary-cap exception on Payton.

"Gary is looking at teams he can excel with," said Goodwin, who expects a firm decision from Payton within the next day or two.

Asked specifically about Milwaukee, Goodwin said: "He won't be back, no."

No team can sign a free agent until July 16, but committing to join the Lakers would enable Payton -- in Goodwin's words -- "to be the first guy to put his money where his mouth is and take less to play for a championship."

In Payton's case, signing with the Lakers would represent a pay cut of more than $7 million from his $12.6 million salary earned last season with Seattle and Milwaukee.

Malone would then be looking at a pay cut of nearly $18 million if he elects to leave the Jazz for Hollywood -- from $19.3 million last season to the $1.5 million figure.

Malone's willingness to accept such a drastic reduction, however, would be more understandable if Utah is only offering him a starting salary of $5-$6 million to stay, as some insiders suggest. It's unlikely Malone would be willing to return to the Jazz for less than the $8 million earned by John Stockton in his final season.

Payton turns 35 on July 23; Malone turns 40 the following day. Although the idea that both could fit into the Lakers' limited budget sounds like a long shot, the upside to playing in L.A. at drastically reduced rates is that both would have a shot at the championship ring neither has won along with the shared opportunity to help restore the Lakers to glory.

Two teams on Payton's list -- the Lakers and Miami -- put the Bucks at risk for losing Payton without compensation, after Milwaukee acquired the nine-time All-Star at mid-season in a stunning trade for franchise pillar Ray Allen.

A costly mistake by Miami guard Anthony Carter early last week has apparently given Miami an estimated $11 million in salary-cap room to pursue free agents, instead of an expected $7 million. Carter and his representatives failed to notify the Heat by June 30 that he would invoke the final year left on his contract, at a salary of $4.1 million.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Heat coach Pat Riley would pursue a veteran like Payton or focus on the best young prospects on the open market, such as Golden State point guard Gilbert Arenas or Los Angeles Clippers center Michael Olowokandi. It's believed that the Heat is trying to infuse their roster with youth and athleticism. That's why center Alonzo Mourning, in another comeback attempt from his longstanding kidney problesm, is expected is sign with Dallas or another title contender.

The Bucks would undoubtedly prefer to strike a sign-and-trade arrangement with Payton rather than lose him for nothing, but the Lakers have no discernible assets to offer in a trade outside stars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Portland, by contrast, has plenty of assets to interest Milwaukee or any team -- Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells and Zach Randolph, to name three -- but Payton would have to reach an agreement to sign with the Trail Blazers and work with the Bucks to construct a trade that satisfies both parties.

kg_veteran
07-07-2003, 01:03 PM
Payton/Malone to LA looks more and more likely by the day. If they both go there, forget about it.

Murphy3
07-07-2003, 01:12 PM
i wouldn't say forget about it..but, i'd say the lakers would be HEAVY favorites going into next year.

Tony tha Mavs fan
07-07-2003, 01:18 PM
Lakers are the favorites every year , but I agree the addition of Payton and Malone would make them the favorites by far

u2sarajevo
07-07-2003, 01:21 PM
Payton AND Malone? Are they both out for rent-a-rings?

Que lastima!!

kg_veteran
07-07-2003, 02:07 PM
Barring major injury, I think you could forget about it.

Better than Dallas on the outside, better than San Antonio and Sacramento inside.

Mandyahl
07-07-2003, 02:09 PM
pretty much yeah, kg. that's why we have to hope it doesn't happen.

u2sarajevo
07-07-2003, 02:10 PM
...or do what we can to disrupt it, ala signing Malone.....

Mandyahl
07-07-2003, 02:16 PM
fine idea, u2.

also, there is some talk of the lakers signing pippen...goodness me.

MFFL
07-07-2003, 04:19 PM
Originally posted by: Mandyahl
fine idea, u2.

also, there is some talk of the lakers signing pippen...goodness me.

That would suck extra hard - pippen to the Lakers for the vet mininum.

Bayliss
07-07-2003, 04:30 PM
Even if Payton and Malone go to the Lakers... I wouldn't say forget about it just yet.

It could quite possibly be Portland Part II. Unlike the Mavs core, all 4 of those players care about "me me me me" and there will be a lot of explosions. And I would even envision a meltdown at some point.

If Payton or Malone go to the Lakers, it is a great move... the Lakers get a bonafide 3rd option at one of their two weakest positions: point guard and power forward. If they get both of them, watch the fireworks... (and that is not a Mavs **homer opinion**...)

Mandyahl
07-07-2003, 11:54 PM
i dunno...even with the fireworks, they may have enough talent out on the floor to still win.