The NBA trade market has one huge addition: Call him The Big Commodity. And another smaller one, call him T-Mac. And the Lakers may be lining up a new coach.
"If any GM out there wants a hardworking big man who wants to win championships, call [Lakers General Manager] Mitch Kupchak, because he will entertain offers," Shaquille O'Neal said.
The breakup of the Lakers has already begun, with coach Phil Jackson out and O'Neal looking to join him.
Yesterday, former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich had been contacted by the Lakers about replacing Jackson a Houston television station and newspaper reported.
Tomjanovich issued a statement confirming that he would look into the position, Houston television station KRIV and the Houston Chronicle reported.
Now the Lakers are Kobe Bryant's team, if the free agent is not bluffing about wanting to be a "Laker for life" and doesn't end up in prison.
"The direction they're going in, if they're going to continue to go in the same direction, I don't want to be a part of this," O'Neal told the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News.
O'Neal, 32, is under contract for $27.6 million next year and $30.6 million the following season and can opt out after next year. He wanted an extension beyond the 2005-06 season, but it never happened.
Kupchak, no doubt speaking for owner Jerry Buss, said Thursday the team would never trade Bryant.
As expected, Bryant opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent and O'Neal took his course of action.
The Lakers can pay Bryant more than $140 million over seven years -- far more than other teams can offer -- and Kupchak said the team will offer the maximum.
Kupchak said Bryant's impending trial in Colorado on a sexual assault charge has no bearing. But it will if Bryant is convicted. Bryant, who will turn 26 this summer, has delivered mixed messages. He said he wanted to be a Laker for life but also that he wanted to check out free agency.
Meantime, GM John Weisbrod said the Magic is still in contract discussions with Tracy McGrady, even though the star has reportedly told the team he wants out.
"I certainly will not confirm that T-Mac is going to be traded," Weisbrod said.
McGrady can opt out of his seven-year, $93 million contract after next season, and has said he will unless Orlando improves dramatically from its 21-61 record. But the Magic has vowed to trade him, rather than letting the four-time all-star leave without any compensation -- like O'Neal did eight years ago.
O'Neal's salary makes Orlando's chances of acquiring him "pretty close to mathematically impossible," Weisbrod said. "We'd be fielding a roster with seven guys on it."
* COLLEGE BASEBALL: Jason Windsor pitched a three-hitter and struck out a career-high 14 to lead Cal State Fullerton to a 2-0 victory over South Carolina at the College World Series in Omaha. Windsor (12-4) won his 11th straight start and ran his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 24. He has given up one run in 32 innings (0.28 ERA) in the NCAA tournament.
Cal State (43-21) will play Miami on Monday. The Hurricanes (50-11) beat LSU, 9-5. Cesar Carrillo held LSU to two hits over his last six innings and Adam Ricks's two-run homer helped Miami.
South Carolina (50-16), shut out in the first round of the CWS for the third straight year, will meet LSU in an elimination game Monday.
* HORSE RACING: Offlee Wild, with Edgar Prado aboard, held off Funny Cide at the wire and won the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap in Boston by a neck.
The Lady's Groom was third, another neck behind. Funny Cide has lost seven of his nine races since winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness last year.
-- From News Services
and Staff Reports