Artest, Lakers reach verbal agreement
July 2, 2009, 10:13 PM EDT
Ron Artest is joining Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
David Bauman, Artest's agent, told The Associated Press 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.
The Los Angeles Times says the two sides are close to reaching a deal, probably for the full mid-level exception, roughly five years and $32 million. Bauman would not confirm numbers, saying the deal was still being negotiated.
"We're not quite there yet," Bauman said. "We're still working on it."
The 6-foot-7 forward 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.