LOS ANGELES - Mitch Kupchak was told he had an important telephone call, and the first words he heard were rather upsetting.
"Mitch, it's Karl. I've got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"
After a brief silence, the Lakers general manager sighed and replied: "The bad news."
"He said, "Ha, ha, there is no bad news,' " Kupchak recalled with a smile Thursday at a news conference introducing the Lakers' free-agent signees Karl Malone and Gary Payton.
The Lakers hope that by lining up Malone and Payton with younger stars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, the joke will be on the rest of the NBA.
"We've got a mission," said Malone, the second-leading scorer in league history. "Anything less than a championship is going to be a disappointment for a lot of people.
"From our first preseason game, we want to crush people."
The Lakers won three straight championships before losing to San Antonio in this season's Western Conference semifinals.
Malone, 40 next week, and Payton, 35, signed at discount prices Tuesday.
BRYANT INVESTIGATION: After two weeks of investigation, the district attorney will announce today whether Bryant will be charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman.
SPURS: When Tony Parker popped off about not wanting to play with Jason Kidd, coach Gregg Popovich was livid.
"He was fine with everything, and then he changed his tune. I thought it made him look a little bit weaker than he was during the whole season," Popovich said. "So I was very disappointed in that, and I expressed that to him."
A few days before Kidd visited San Antonio this month to be recruited by the Spurs, Parker said publicly he had no desire to play with the point guard he defeated during the NBA Finals.
The comments shocked coaches, who had been upfront with Parker about who their No. 1 free-agent choice would be.
Popovich phoned Parker and gave him an earful.
WARRIORS: Free agent Gilbert Arenas will be arraigned next month on charges of possessing a concealed weapon and driving without a license, stemming from a June traffic stop.
CELTICS: A clerk magistrate has declined to file assault charges against Antoine Walker for an altercation with a fan.
KINGS: The father of Keon Clark was charged with first-degree murder in a shooting death. John Earl Clark argued with Clarence Cunningham III about a bicycle, prosecutors said.
PISTONS: Leading scorer Richard Hamilton agreed to a new deal. Terms were not announced.