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Fox, Payton part of Laker overhaul

Associated Press
Published August 7, 2004

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - "Kobe's team" underwent more changes Friday when the Los Angeles Lakers sent Gary Payton and Rick Fox to the Boston Celtics in a five-player deal.

The Lakers, putting perhaps the final touches on an extensive overhaul, got Chuck Atkins, Marcus Banks and Chris Mihm from Boston.

"We got a true backup center (Mihm) who can probably play a little bit of power forward, and we got much younger in the backcourt," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said.

The Celtics also received a conditional first-round draft pick and cash in the deal and sent a second-round pick to the Western Conference champions.

"As you know we have made some dramatic changes," Kupchak said in understatement.

Three days after the Lakers lost to the underdog Pistons in the finals, the shakeup started. Coach Phil Jackson was let go, and Shaquille O'Neal demanded a trade.

Rudy Tomjanovich was hired as coach, O'Neal was dealt to Miami for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler; Derek Fisher left for Golden State; and free agent Bryant signed a seven-year, $136.4-million contract.

Later, Los Angeles signed free agent Vlade Divac, who was its center in the early 1990s.

"We're hopeful, with the changes and the younger players, that we put ourselves in the position where we don't have to experience four or five years of mediocrity," Kupchak said.

"Hopefully we'll be in a position to make the playoffs right away, advance in the playoffs, and at the same time have a good mix of young players who may be with us the next 10 years."

Payton and Karl Malone took large pay cuts to join the Lakers as free agents last summer, each All-Star hoping to win his first championship.

Malone, recovering from knee surgery, has not said if he will return to the team.

Fox played with the Lakers for seven years, spending six previous seasons with the Celtics.

Payton, a nine-time All-Star who averaged 18.3 points over his first 13 seasons, averaged 14.6 points - his lowest since the 1992-93 season - and a career-low 4.2 assists in the regular season last year. He averaged 7.8 points and 5.3 assists in the playoffs.

HEAT: Free-agent point guard Damon Jones signed. Jones, a six-year veteran, averaged seven points and 5.8 assists for the Bucks last season. He averaged 10 points and 7.4 assists in the playoffs.

NETS: The team started the process of replacing Kenyon Martin on the front line by signing Eric Williams to a three-year, $12-million contract.

Williams, 6-foot-8, has averaged 9.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in nine seasons. He split last season between Boston and Cleveland, averaging 10 points and four rebounds in 71 games.

"He is a quality NBA veteran who can play both forward positions," Nets president Rod Thorn said.

WEBBER HALFWAY DONE: Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber has finished half of his court-ordered community service by reading to needy children.

Webber, a former University of Michigan star, pleaded guilty last year to criminal contempt for lying to a federal grand jury. Under the plea agreement, Webber admitted he lied when he testified in August 2000 that he couldn't remember repaying booster Eddie Martin about $38,200 in 1994.

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