Jeremy Lin is still on his way to the Los Angeles Lakers, even after the Houston Rockets failed to land coveted forward Chris Bosh in free agency.
The Rockets still plan to execute the trade that will send the point guard to Los Angeles for cash, two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Saturday. The people requested anonymity because the trade has not been officially announced.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey plunged into the free agent market with designs on adding a third star to play with James Harden and Dwight Howard. He made a brief overture to LeBron James and hosted Carmelo Anthony for a visit, but both of those efforts were rebuffed.
While James mulled his future this week, Morey swung for the fences with a four-year max offer to Bosh, the versatile forward who was credited with being the defensive backbone during the Heat's run to four straight NBA Finals. To create the salary cap room to make the offer, Morey reached an agreement to trade Lin, who will make about $15 million this season in the last year of a deal that counts only $8 million against the cap, to the Lakers, who have the cap room to absorb Lin's contract without sending much back in return.
When James chose to return to Cleveland on Friday, the path appeared to be clearing for the Texas-born Bosh to join up with the Rockets and vault them into contender status in the powerful Western Conference.
But Heat President Pat Riley quickly recovered from James' rejection and convinced Bosh to stay in Miami with a whopping five-year, $118 million offer.
The bold move left the Rockets on the outside looking in again, but Morey had no second thoughts about dumping Lin, who didn't mesh well playing in the same backcourt with the equally aggressive Harden. The deal allowed Morey to stay in the hunt for other stars on the market, and he reportedly struck a deal with Washington Wizards swingman Trevor Ariza on Saturday night.
The 29-year-old Ariza had his best season as a pro last year in Washington, averaging 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range to help the Wizards advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2005. USA Today first reported that Ariza agreed to terms on a four-year, $32 million contract.
"I want to thank @WashWizards (owner) @TedLeonsis ... for two great years," Ariza tweeted. "I will (always) be grateful for you guys."
Morey has yet to decide whether he will match the Dallas Mavericks' three-year, $46 million offer sheet for restricted free agent Chandler Parsons, who plays a similar game to Ariza. Morey has until Sunday night to decide if he will match the offer to keep Parsons in Houston or allow him to join Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.
Meanwhile, the Lakers were able to get their hands on a talented point guard who gives them a different dimension at the position and could help ease the scoring burden on Bryant, who only played in six games last year because of injury.
Lin earned his big contract with the Rockets thanks to a fantastic midseason run with the New York Knicks in 2012, when the "Linsanity" phenomenon was born. He's the kind of dynamic, shoot-first point guard that has become more and more popular in the league over the last few seasons, which should help the Lakers, who have pass-first Kendall Marshall and the oft-injured Steve Nash on the roster as well.
Lin averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists last season, but he lost his starting job alongside the defensively deficient Harden because coach Kevin McHale preferred Patrick Beverley's tenacity on that end of the floor.
But with Bryant likely needing some time to ease back into things after missing almost all of last season and gifted offensive big man Pau Gasol likely on his way out, Lin will provide some much-needed offensive punch to a rebuilding Lakers roster.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.