Thursday, July 2, 2009
Report: Ariza meets with Rockets
ESPN.com news services
HOUSTON -- With question marks surrounding three of their top players, the Rockets met with Trevor Ariza on Thursday in hopes of bringing the Los Angeles Lakers forward to Houston, The Associated Press has learned.
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.
Morey and David Lee, Ariza's agent, did not immediately return messages left by the AP. The meeting was first reported by KRIV-TV in Houston.
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.
With at least five teams pursuing Ariza, the Lakers appear unwilling to pay him more than the $5.6 million mid-level exception.
The Cavaliers, Clippers, Raptors and Blazers also are showing interest in Ariza. Portland and Toronto each could offer more than the mid-level exception.
The Rockets could use a versatile forward with a perimeter touch, especially if free agent Ron Artest decides to play elsewhere.
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's talked to Morey "eight or 10" times since free agency began early Wednesday, but the two sides have yet to discuss specific numbers or contract details.
"We knew this was going to be a deliberate negotiation," Bauman said.
Artest is looking to cash in after earning $7.4 million in a productive first season in Houston, where he averaged 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and shot 39.9 percent from 3-point range.
Bauman also said several teams who reached the postseason have contacted him about Artest. He said the volatile forward has exchanged text messages with "various superstars around the league, all from playoff-caliber teams, all 'final 8' teams in the NBA."
Bauman would not specify which teams have contacted him and said that Artest had not had "face-to-face" contact with Cleveland star LeBron James.
The Cavaliers would be an intriguing possibility for Artest, since he played for Indiana when Cleveland coach Mike Brown was an assistant there and the two have maintained a good relationship. The Cavaliers have already added center Shaquille O'Neal in the most significant move of the offseason so far.
Information from ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard and The Associated Press was used in this report.