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Published: Thursday, 7/2/2009

O'Neal checks out Cavs' practice facilities

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CLEVELAND - Shaquille O'Neal took his first look at his new basketball home.

The 15-time all-star center toured the Cavaliers' suburban practice facility and took his physical yesterday, one day before he is formally introduced as superstar LeBron James' newest teammate.

O'Neal and a small group of associates met briefly with Cavs coach Mike Brown and others at the Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio. The Cavaliers are hoping O'Neal, who has won four NBA titles, can be the missing piece to help James win his first championship and end the city's title drought dating to 1964.

The Cavaliers have scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference for today to welcome O'Neal. He was acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns last week.

It is not known if James, who was vacationing outside the country when O'Neal was traded, will be at the news conference. The league MVP was in Los Angeles Sunday for the BET Awards.

O'Neal, who will wear jersey No. 33 - his high school and college number - in Cleveland, is staying at a posh downtown hotel during this visit. He hasn't decided if he will buy a house, rent, or stay in a hotel during his time with the Cavaliers, his fifth NBA team.

Cleveland is the first cold-weather city where O'Neal has played after stops in Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, and Phoenix.

O'Neal has one season left under contract, but the 37-year-old center recently indicated on his Twitter page that he can play three more seasons.

Also, the Plain Dealer, citing anonymous sources, reported that James and Ron Artest met in Los Angeles.

Artest's agent, David Bauman, said his client would like to remain in Houston but also will consider a team's championship potential. Artest is the only healthy member of the Rockets' trio of stars, with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady injured and perhaps out for at least the early part of next season.

In that case, he may be willing to listen to a pitch from another title hopeful.

LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant insisted his contract status wouldn't be an issue, and he was right.

Now the Los Angeles Lakers can turn their attention to some NBA champion teammates.

Bryant chose not to terminate the final two years of his contract and will remain with the Lakers, the team he wanted to leave just two summers ago.

Team spokesman John Black confirmed Bryant's decision. The MVP of the NBA finals had until Tuesday to become an unrestricted free agent, but he downplayed questions about his future plans throughout the Lakers' five-game victory over Orlando.

Now the Lakers and Bryant's agent will negotiate a contract extension. If they somehow cannot agree, he would earn $23 million next season and could opt out next June.

Bryant has spent his entire 13-year career with the team, winning four NBA championships.



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