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Laker Trade May Signal Big Deal

From Associated Press

The Lakers, trimming their payroll again, traded former first-round draft picks Anthony Peeler and George Lynch and second-round draft picks in 1998 and ’99 to the Vancouver Grizzlies on Tuesday for a second-round picks in ’98 and ’99.

The team also signed free agent center Sean Rooks, who had been with Atlanta, to a multi-year contract.

The Lakers earlier dealt starting center Vlade Divac and his $8.5 million salary to Charlotte for high school standout Kobe Bryant. Peeler and Lynch combined made approximately $3 million last season.

The deal with Vancouver may indicate that the Lakers are trying to free more money under the NBA’s salary cap so they can increase their offer to Shaquille O’Neal, or pursue other free agents.

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A Laker spokesman had said Monday the team was not optimistic about the chances of signing O’Neal.

The Lakers offered O’Neal a $95.5-million, seven-year contract last week, with a clause that would allow him to become a free agent again after three years. That would enable the Lakers to boost his salary in 1999 to compensate for any money he lost by not remaining with Orlando.

The Magic, able to exceed the salary cap since they’re trying to keep O’Neal, reportedly countered with an offer of $115 million for seven years.

Rooks, 26, is a 6-foot-10, 250-pounder who has played four seasons in the NBA, at Dallas, Minnesota and Atlanta. He has averaged 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds.

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Peeler, who will give Vancouver depth at guard, was selected 15th overall in the 1992 draft. Lynch, a forward, went 12th overall in 1993.

The Grizzlies, with nearly $5 million available under the league’s salary cap rules, were one of the few teams able to help the Lakers reduce their payroll.

The 6-2 Peeler made a reported $1.3 million and Lynch $1.76 million as backups last season.

Peeler averaged 9.7 points and 1.6 assists while playing 22 minutes a game. It was the lowest-scoring of his four NBA seasons.

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The 6-8 Lynch averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in a career-high 76 regular-season games last seasons.

“Anthony and George were two of our key reserves, as well as two of our best defensive players, and we hate to see them go,” Laker Coach Del Harris said. “However, this was a move we feel we had to make in the best long-term interest of our team.”


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