Future Hall of Fame inductees Karl Malone and Gary Payton signed contracts with the Los Angeles Lakers shortly after midnight yesterday.
A moratorium on free agent signings expired Tuesday night. Beginning at 12:01am EDT time, free agents were allowed to sign contracts.
Malone, the second-leading scorer in NBA history who is considered perhaps the greatest power forward ever, signed a two-year contract worth just over US$3 million, Lakers spokesman John Black.
Malone, who earned US$19 million last season in his 18th and final season with the Utah Jazz, will earn the veteran's exception of US$1.5 million next season. He turns 40 later this month.
Payton, five years younger, also signed a multiyear contract. He established himself as one of the NBA's finest point guards in Seattle, where he played for nearly 12 seasons before being traded to Milwaukee this past season.
The players will be introduced this morning at a news conference at Staples Center.
Payton, who earned US$12 million last season, will make US$4.9 million in his first year with the Lakers.
Malone faxed in his contract to the Lakers from Arkansas shortly after it was allowed to be signed.
Malone and Payton will join Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in a star-studded Lakers lineup.
Other Los Angeles returnees next season are Derek Fisher, Devean George, Rick Fox, Slava Medvedenko, Kareem Rush and Jannero Pargo.
The Lakers won three straight NBA championships before being eliminated in six games in the Western Conference semifinals by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs two months ago.
Kupchak made it clear in the aftermath that major changes were in store.
Neither Malone nor Payton have played on a championship team. Payton and the Sonics played in the NBA Finals once and the Jazz reached the Finals twice during Malone's time there.