- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

From combined dispatches

Ron Artest is joining Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

David Bauman, Artest’s agent, said 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 Thursday night.

ESPN.com reported Artest agreed to a three-year deal worth $18 million. Bauman would not confirm those numbers, saying the deal was still being negotiated.

“We’re not quite there yet,” Bauman said. “We’re still working on it.”

PISTONS: A day after jumping to Detroit, Ben Gordon told a Chicago radio station Thursday that the Bulls never made a contract offer even though general manager Gar Forman claimed re-signing him was their No. 1 priority.

“I mean they didn’t pursue me at all. They didn’t even make an offer so it was pretty much a one-man race,” Gordon told ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago.

Gordon agreed to a five-year deal worth more than $50 million with the Pistons on Wednesday after leading the Bulls in scoring the past four seasons. Under league rules, that deal can’t be announced until next week.

Gordon and the Bulls had tried to negotiate long-term deals the past two years. He wound up accepting a one-year tender offer last year and enjoyed one of his best seasons, averaging 20.7 points, tying a career high by shooting 45.5 percent and leading the Bulls to the playoffs.

ROCKETS: With question marks surrounding three of their top players, Houston met with Trevor Ariza in hopes of signing the Los Angeles Lakers forward.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey met with the free agent in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the situation who requested anonymity because the negotiations were ongoing.

The 6-foot-8 Ariza averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Lakers last season, which ended with the NBA championship.

The Rockets could use a versatile forward with a perimeter touch, especially since Ron Artest appears to be on his way to the Lakers. Houston star Tracy McGrady is already expected to miss much of next season as he recovers from a knee injury, and center Yao Ming’s foot injury could keep him out indefinitely.

Artest’s agent, David Bauman, said in a phone interview that he has talked to Morey “eight or 10” times since free agency began Wednesday, but the two sides have yet to discuss specific numbers or contract details.

CAVALIERS: Shaquille O’Neal has one purpose in Cleveland: Bring an NBA title to LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

“My motto is very simple,” the 15-time All-Star center said. “Win a ring for the King.”

Acquired in a trade last week with Phoenix, O’Neal was introduced by the Cavaliers, who believe he can be their missing piece. The city of Cleveland has been waiting since 1964 for one of its pro sports franchises to win a championship.

During a 30-minute news conference that was more of a TV talk show featuring Shaq, the 37-year-old star said he just wants to fit in with a Cavaliers team that won 66 regular-season games last season but was eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals by Orlando.

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