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NBA Clippers clear extra cap space for Bryant

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The 25-year-old free agent is weighing offers from the Lakers and the Clippers.
When the NBA announced the new salary cap figure for the upcoming season, the Los Angeles Clippers found themselves $11.65 million below it.
Needing another couple million to offer Kobe Bryant a maximum-salary contract, the Clippers apparently found a way to do so.
The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday the Clippers will trade Melvin Ely and Eddie House to the expansion Bobcats in exchange for future second-round draft picks, clearing another $2.5 million in cap space.
Bryant is eligible to receive a starting salary of almost $14.2 million, 105 percent of his 2003-04 salary of $13.5 million.
But the Clippers would have only $11.65 million of cap room if they don't deal Ely and House.
Clippers vice president Joe Safety said Wednesday he had "no comment at this time" on the reported deal with Charlotte. A Bobcats spokesman did not immediately return a phone call.
Spokesmen for the Lakers and Clippers said they had no news to report on what Bryant might do. And with Bryant continuing to maintain a public silence -- his agent, Rob Pelinka, said "I'm not commenting to the media at this time" -- there was no telling when the 25-year-old might decide his future.
So while Bryant kept everyone in Los Angeles waiting, the process of trading Shaquille O'Neal was being set in motion.
Other deals
The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat were expected to complete a deal Wednesday sending O'Neal to the Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick.
A few restricted free agents were expected to sign offer sheets in the hours after the moratorium expired, while a handful of unrestricted free agents -- most notably Steve Nash going from Dallas to Phoenix -- would finally be allowed to sign the deals they agreed to during the first two weeks of this month.
Among the top free agents whose plans were not yet known were Rasheed Wallace of the NBA champion Detroit Pistons, Erick Dampier of Golden State, Karl Malone of the Lakers, Vlade Divac of Sacramento, Derek Fisher of the Lakers, Darius Miles of Portland and Kenyon Martin of New Jersey.
Martin was weighing an offer sheet with Atlanta or Denver after sign-and-trade discussions between the Nuggets and Nets broke down. The Nuggets were considering giving Martin a front-loaded deal that might give pause to incoming Nets owner Bruce Ratner.
Malone, puzzled by the breakup of the Lakers, was being courted by the Spurs.
"Without a doubt I'm serious [about the Spurs]," Malone told the San Antonio Express-News. "I've had serious dialogue with them, and more than once. I've talked to coach [Gregg] Popovich two or three times and [general manager] R.C. [Buford] one or two times. They call about every other day. I've had great dialogue with them."
Malone, however, said he will not make a decision on next season until he knows whether he can perform at 100 percent of his capability. He recently underwent surgery on his left knee, which he sprained twice last season.