Payton close to finalizing deal with Heat

Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2005

MIAMI (AP) —Gary Payton's quest for an NBA championship will apparently continue in Miami.

The nine-time All-Star guard is on the verge of signing a one-year free agent deal with the Heat, a move that could be formally announced as early as Thursday.

Payton's agent, Aaron Goodwin, said he will be in Miami on Thursday to continue his ongoing dialogue with Heat president Pat Riley and other team officials. Although Miami has its entire $5 million mid-level exception available, the team could land Payton for as little as the veteran's minimum of about $1.1 million.

''I met with Pat this past weekend, I'll come down and we'll go from there,'' Goodwin said Wednesday night.

Goodwin would not divulge if the meeting is a mere formality, or if the sides still have a bit more work to do before reaching a firm agreement.

''Nothing yet, but we're definitely getting close,'' Goodwin said.

The move is certainly one that will make Shaquille O'Neal happy; the Heat's 12-time All-Star center openly lobbied for Miami to sign Payton, who averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 assists for Boston last season.

Payton, 37, joined O'Neal in Los Angeles two years ago —primarily because of the lure that those Lakers could win the NBA title. That team, however, lost to Detroit in the 2004 NBA Finals, a few weeks before O'Neal was shipped to the Heat.

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