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Lakers get a bargain in Payton

Gary Payton is set to join the Lakers and Karl Malone might not be far behind.

"It is the Lakers' intention to enter into a contract with Gary Payton once the moratorium period ends," general manager Mitch Kupchak said Tuesday. "Due to NBA rules regarding free agency I am unable to further comment at this time."

If two-time MVP Malone also signs, Los Angeles could be even more imposing, featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in addition to Payton, a nine-time All-Star.

Payton and other free agents are not allowed to sign until July 16.

Payton would be limited to $4.9-million with the Lakers in the first year of a multiyear contract.

Malone reportedly is willing to take the veteran minimum of $1.4-million in order to have a chance to win his first championship.

MORE KOBE: The sexual assault allegations against Bryant were made by a 19-year-old Colorado woman. Eagle County (Colo.) Sheriff Joe Hoy confirmed the woman's age and said she has left on vacation with her family.

He also said investigators have sent unspecified evidence to the state bureau of investigation for analysis, but he refused to discuss other details of the case.

Bryant, 24, is accused of sexual assault, and prosecutors are expected to decide by the end of the week whether to charge him.

PACERS: All-Star center Jermaine O'Neal, 24, is near an agreement on a new contract. It's believed the 6-foot-10 O'Neal, who averaged 20.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.31 blocks last season, will receive a contract worth more than $100-million.


SEATTLE: Forward Adia Barnes will miss the rest of the regular season with a torn knee ligament.