EL SEGUNDO, California, AP
Isaiah Rider says he’s changing his ways. Honest. Rider, who signed a free agent contract with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers last Friday, vowed to end the tardiness problems that have plagued him since his first NBA practice in 1993. “I have my head on straight,” Rider said Monday at an introductory news conference. “I’m really happy, confident and not reluctant to be in this situation. “It’s up to me to dig myself out of the hole. We’ll see in seven or eight months what the outcome is. To me, this is an easy transition — come in, do my job and be a good citizen.” Rider said he will live in a location equally convenient to the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo near Los Angeles International Airport and Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, where the team plays its home games. He also said his new home would enable him to drive on surface streets, avoiding the crowded freeways. “An adjustment of 20 or 30 minutes a day in my life will be the significant part of my turnaround,” Rider said. “Coaches know I don’t come dragging in in the morning.” Rider’s constant tardiness caused him to clash with coaches in Atlanta last season and Portland before that. He was also late to his first professional practice seven years ago with the Minnesota Timberwolves. General manager Mitch Kupchak said Rider demonstrated sincerity about changing his ways by rejecting Miami’s US$2.25 million contract offer last week before signing with the Lakers for US$736,000 — the minimum salary for players with seven years experience. “To me, it’s the first step,” Kupchak said. “He’s acknowledging he’s looked at the situation, he knows what he needs and he’s made a sacrifice, which is probably the most important thing.” Rider said it wasn’t a difficult decision to accept the lower offer. “For me, it wasn’t about money,” he said. “This is an opportunity I thought I couldn’t pass up, with premier players, a good supporting cast and an organization that’s been No. 1 for years.” Both Rider and Kupchak said the one-year contract will provide sufficient motivation for the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) player to solve his problems. Rider averaged 19.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists for Atlanta last season, near his career averages of 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists. The Hawks waived him a month before the season ended. Meanwhile, as Rider arrived, Kupchak was casting doubt about the return of free agent forward Glen Rice, saying, “I wouldn’t say it was likely,” that Rice will be re-signed. “I also wouldn’t say it’s not going to happen, either,” Kupchak said. “We’re half the equation.
He’s the other half of the equation. If we were both on the same page, then he’d be back here or he’d be gone by now.” Rice, who became a free agent at the conclusion of the playoffs, appeared on his way to the New York Knicks as part of a four-team deal last week, but the trade fell through. Pacers contact agent for Hardaway Tim Hardaway has been telling anyone who will listen how upset he is with the Miami Heat. The Indiana Pacers heard about it, and now they are talking with Hardaway’s agent. Hardaway, attending training camp with the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, was on the phone with agent Henry Thomas first thing in the morning Monday to learn whether his latest rant had produced any results. Indeed it had, as Pacers president Donnie Walsh had called to inquire whether Hardaway’s interest in playing for the Pacers was genuine or merely a bargaining ploy. “I’m looking into it to see if he’s for real,” Walsh said. “I’m sure there’s a place for Tim Hardaway somewhere.” Hardaway, an unrestricted free agent, is seeking a three-year contract from the Heat. But he says he will consider signing a one-year deal with Indiana for the mid-level salary cap exception of US$2.5 million. The Heat can pay him much more, but Miami president Pat Riley and Thomas have made little progress toward an agreement. With three months having passed since the Heat was eliminated from the playoffs, Hardaway has lost his patience. “I deserve a lot more respect than I’m getting,” Hardaway said. “I took less money to stay there. (Riley) said he’d take care of me, and it hasn’t happened yet. “I’m dead serious. I’ll go play for a contending team like the Pacers. I’ll go somewhere where they appreciate me. I think (Indiana coach) Isiah (Thomas) appreciates me, and right now I’m getting no love from the Miami Heat.” Indiana plans to move Jalen Rose to the point-guard position after losing Mark Jackson to Toronto on the free-agent market, but the opportunity to sign Hardaway could alter those plans. Hardaway also said he would consider signing with the Chicago Bulls, who have enough cap room to outbid the Pacers. Hardaway is from Chicago and played for Bulls coach Tim Floyd at Texas-El Paso. Riley has made major changes to the Miami roster this summer, acquiring Eddie Jones and Anthony Mason from Charlotte and agreeing in principle on a three-team trade that will bring Portland free agent Brian Grant to Miami. The Grant deal is expected to be finalized Wednesday, which will presumably allow the Heat to turn their attention to Hardaway. “I’m not on that team, so I’m not going to talk about the moves they made,” Hardaway said. An 11-year veteran and five-time All-Star, Hardaway has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons. A deep bruise in his left foot limited his movement in the playoffs last June when Miami lost to the New York Knicks in seven games, but Hardaway said everything has healed. Miami general manager Randy Pfund was expected to fly to Hawaii later this week to meet with Hardaway and watch him scrimmage, but those plans have changed, a Heat spokesman said. Alonzo Mourning has been working out with Hardaway all summer and has been in contact with Riley regarding the Hardaway situation. “Going into this, he should have been signed. But it’s like this: This is a cold, unpredictable business,” Mourning said. ‘I know Timmy’s going to be taken care of because there’s a ertain level of loyalty with our organization, unlike other organizations that I won’t necessarily name,” Mourning said, making a eiled reference to the rival Knicks. “We take care of our own, and I know they’re going to take care of Tim.”