As the NBA world enters another grueling day of free agency, two of the biggest names in basketball have signed on with new squads. Coincidentally, one would believe it could be a trade.
Ron Artest, the highly controversial forward who last played with the Houston Rockets, has inked a 3-year deal with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The squad had given Artest the opportunity to settle out the financials, and it appears he is going to choose a total salary of around $18 million. Ron, who turns 30 this November, averaged 17.1 ppg last season, losing to the Lakers deep into the playoffs.
Artest stated, “For years now, the Lakers have expressed interest in having me play for them, but we could never get the stars to align. I’m finally a Laker and I can’t wait to get on the court with Kobe, Pau (Gasol) and the rest of the team, and play for Phil (Jackson). The Lakers really made me feel wanted.”
To counteract the move, the Rockets have reportedly added rising star Trevor Ariza, who was one of the most crucial parts of the Lakers championship run. For the first season, Ariza will receive the full mid-level exception, which is valued at almost $7 million. Though he did not average double-digits last season, Ariza will be expected to rejuvenate a Rockets squad that will be without star Center Yao Ming and possibly Guard Tracy McGrady.
Jason Kidd has been offered two 3-year offers from both the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks. A move to New York may be enticing for Kidd, as the team is expected to be a major contender for LeBron James in 2010. Kidd, 36, has yet to win a championship, despite having appeared in the finals twice as a member of the New Jersey Nets.
Rasheed Wallace has been offered the full mid-level exception from the Boston Celtics, which is about $5.8 million. Rasheed reportedly met with F Kevin Garnett, G Ray Allen, F Paul Pierce, and GM Danny Ainge about becoming a member of the squad. Multiple sources state that a deal is near imminent, and can be completed within the upcoming hours.
The Pistons have begun a complete change to their club. They added Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, both of which played basketball at UConn. The moves likely signifiy the end of the Allen Iverson era in Detroit.
The Rockets have also expressed interest in Dwight Howard’s backup, seven foot Center Marcin Gortat. He would likely be used as the starting big man with Yao Ming gone for the season.
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