A.C. Green, in his first public comments since becoming a free agent, said Monday he is still seriously considering signing again with the Lakers “because I have a great deal of interest in them, especially after eight seasons, and I can’t just turn that off.”
However, he is delaying his decision, he says, because he wants to be sure he is doing the right thing.
He is also awaiting the outcome of a case affecting the NBA’s salary-cap restrictions, because the resolution might enable him to sign with a contending club that can’t match the Lakers’ estimated $3.6 million first-year salary but could offer him free agency--and the prospect of an unlimited salary--after his first season.
“I’m sort of waiting to see what happens with that,” said Green, who is being wooed by the Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers, besides the Lakers. “That will have an indirect effect.
“For me, though, it can’t come down to dollars and cents. The bottom line is not money. It hasn’t ever been. It never will be. But at the same time, I’m not going to sell myself and my services short. Where the market is, that’s where it is.”
The test case involves a seven-year, $10.5-million contract offered free agent Chris Dudley by the Trail Blazers. Dudley rejected an offer from New Jersey that would have paid him $10 million more and accepted a salary from Portland of $790,000 the first year because of a provision allowing him to terminate the contract after his first season and become a free agent. He could then recoup his first-year losses, because clubs are permitted to exceed their salary caps to re-sign their own free agents.
If that contract stands, other clubs could dodge restrictions by giving Green the same kind of clause. The Suns have open only a $1.885-million salary slot with the prospect of a 30% raise each season, and the Blazers--Green’s hometown team--have only a $650,000 slot. The NBA has permitted teams to offer free-agency buyout clauses after two seasons, but not after one.
New York attorney Merrell Clark, the NBA’s special master, heard more than 16 hours of testimony last week and five hours of closing arguments Monday. His ruling, expected this week, could be appealed to federal court. Toni Kukoc of the Chicago Bulls and Craig Ehlo of the Atlanta Hawks, who signed contracts similar to Dudley’s, will also be affected by the decision.
Green, who has been working out all summer, said he will decide in September.
“So many things come into play, like location, what things are going on in the city, what it’s like off the court,” he said. “To me, it’s all about winning. It doesn’t have to be a team that won the finals last year or a team that’s in the lottery. Give me guys who play hard and management that’s committed to getting guys out there who are committed to winning. We can have fun and be competitive.”
The Suns offered Green a five-year deal worth $15-16 million, besides giving him a nameplate, locker stall and uniform when he visited Phoenix last month.
“It’s been a classy state of events with every team,” Green said.
Said Dick Van Arsdale, the Suns’ director of player personnel: “It’s no secret we’d like to have A.C. here and we’ve tried to do everything we can. It’s hard to get inside A.C.'s mind and know what he’s thinking.”
Jerry Colangelo, the Suns’ owner, last week estimated his odds of signing Green at 75-25 in his favor, which amused Laker General Manager Jerry West. Asked to assess his chances, West replied, “I guess 25-75.”
The Lakers signed free-agent forward Trevor Wilson, formerly of UCLA. A second-round pick by Atlanta in the 1990 draft, Wilson played the last two seasons in Spain. He averaged 21.1 points and 7.5 rebounds for Pescanova last season.