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Milicic's European team reduces demands

The European team with the rights to Darko Milicic, Detroit's top pick and the No. 2 overall selection in last month's draft, reduced its original $10-million buyout proposal, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.

Milicic, 18, and his agent, Marc Cornstein, are negotiating with Hemofarm Vrsac to buy out the remaining five years of Milicic's contract so he can begin his NBA career next season. The Pistons and representatives for the 7-foot-1 forward hope that a deal is reached soon.

Under NBA rules the team drafting a foreign player may pay only $350,000 to the overseas team that holds the player's rights. The player is responsible for the rest. Under the NBA's collective-bargaining agreement, Milicic, as the second pick in the draft, can earn about $2.996-million in the coming season.

Milicic wants to spread the payments over several years.

BUCKS: Free-agent guard Gary Payton has eliminated returning to the team, the Los Angeles Times reported. "Milwaukee," said his agent, Aaron Goodwin, "is not an option."

Payton, considering signing with the Lakers, also is considering the merits of larger contracts away from Los Angeles in a possible sign-and-trade deal. His decision is linked at least in part to Karl Malone, also a free agent, who has told the Lakers he would play for them at well below market value.

GRIZZLIES: First-round draft picks Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones signed three-year contracts.

Bell, the 16th overall pick, can make no more than $3.45-million in his first three years under the league's sliding pay scale for first-rounders. Jones, taken 20th, can make no more than $2.85-million.

Both guards were drafted by Boston, but the Celtics traded their rights for the rights to guard Marcus Banks and center Kendrick Perkins.

LAKERS: Former Illinois forward Brian Cook, the team's first-round pick, signed. Terms were not released. Cook, the 24th overall selection, was named third team All-America and Big Ten player of the year.