Thursday, July 10, 2003

O'Neal staying with Indiana


But change afoot in Miami as 'Zo' ponders market

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Free agent Jermaine O'Neal called off visits to other NBA teams as the Pacers' president said he was prepared to offer the All-Star forward $120 million to sign on for another seven years.

Donnie Walsh, the franchise president, said he's working with O'Neal's agent, Arn Tellem, on a contract that would pay O'Neal almost $120 million over seven years.

"We've started talking about some of the finer points and we're getting close to the end of the process," Walsh told the Indianapolis Star. "All I can say is it looks good. But until (July) 16th, I don't know if it's good. It's not over until you sign the contract."

HEAT: Alonzo Mourning has not ruled out returning to the Miami Heat, but the seven-time All-Star center said Wednesday night he will look elsewhere if the team is committed to a lengthy rebuilding project.

Mourning was offered a contract Wednesday to stay with the Heat, and although he said there is a possibility of returning, he indicated that he and coach Pat Riley are headed in different philosophical directions.

"I want to be here. But I understand Riles has to make the right decision for this franchise," Mourning said. "He's already explained to me that he has to rebuild, and I told him I want to win. That pretty much explains itself there."

Riley, addressing reporters in Orlando, reiterated that he wants Mourning to remain with the Heat, who have paid him $105 million over the past seven years - including his full $20.6 million last season when he sat out because of kidney disease.

"He's the heart and soul of this franchise and always has been. I want him to reboot it with me," Riley said. "He's going to have to cooperate with me, but I can't expect him to do that. I know exactly where Zo is coming from, and he knows exactly where we're coming from."

Neither side addressed the specifics of the Heat's offer, but Mourning dismissed it as "not a significant one."

LeBRON SHINES: LeBron James isn't especially quick, yet he routinely gets past defenders. He isn't thought to be a great shooter, but he routinely hits key shots. And two exhibition games into his young NBA career, his decision-making in transition has been equal parts dazzling and flawless.

Comparisons to Magic Johnson, anyone?

"There's nothing at all wrong with doing that with this kid's talent," said Miami's Riley, who was Johnson's coach for four of his five NBA titles. "He has a demeanor about him that is incredible. Magic was 6-9 and a natural point guard. LeBron isn't at that point yet, but he can certainly develop it because he's just so talented."

If James' professional debut Tuesday night before 15,123 fans was a showcase, Wednesday afternoon's game against Miami Heat guards Caron Butler and Dwyane Wade was a nuts-and-bolts type of test. And, not surprisingly, the most ballyhooed rookie in NBA history once again passed that test with flying colors.

James attacked Butler in the early minutes of the game, scoring Cleveland's first five points. By the time the summer-league game was complete, James' stat sheet boasted 17 points, three assists, three steals and two rebounds.

"Every game for me is a real test, but Caron is a great player that I respect a lot," James said after Miami's 82-78 defeat of James' Cavs. "He and Dwayne Wade played me really tough too, so that was a really good test."




REDS
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MORE BASEBALL
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Kieschnick gets his first victory
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DAUGHERTY COLUMN
UC needs to make a big play to join the Big East

UC BEARCATS
XU, UC consider Big East options

BASKETBALL
O'Neal staying with Indiana

AUTO RACING
Series' reminder: We are NASCAR, too

GOLF
Three former champs alive in today's final round
Watson hopes this time he can complete the job
Tristate course of the week: Rocky Fork
Chip shots

TOUR DE FRANCE
An on-time delivery for U.S. Postal squad

OTHER SPORTS
1st round of Met tennis washed out at Lunken
Thursday sports on TV, radio