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Shaq Signs With Lakers

July 18, 1996 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) _ Shaquille O’Neal signed a seven-year, $120 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers today on the Dream Team’s first full day at the Olympics.

Even though O’Neal refused to talk about the deal, the Lakers confirmed they had signed one of the NBA’s most dominant players.

In anticipation of the signing _ or perhaps signings of other expensive free agents _ the Lakers have raised ticket prices. They sent a notice to season ticket holders last month about the increases, which include raising the cheapest seat price from $9.50 to $21.

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O’Neal, a free-agent after four years with the Orlando Magic, said he would discuss his status at a 3 p.m. EDT news conference at Reebok’s Olympic headquarters.

His teammates on the Olympic team were already talking about the deal.

``It’s kind of devastating, but it’s one of those things where you have to wish him the best,″ said Magic guard Penny Hardaway, now a former teammate of O’Neal’s.

``Obviously, the Lakers are much improved,″ David Robinson said.

``I think it’s great for Shaq. There are guys that haven’t done a whole lot who are getting a whole lot of money. So a guy like him, he deserves it and more power to him,″ Karl Malone said.

O’Neal was at a Dream Team news conference late this morning, but refused to answer any questions about the signing.

Greg Warmoth of WFTV in Orlando said he was with O’Neal at 3 a.m. in Atlanta after O’Neal met with the Lakers officials, including general manager Jerry West. After 1 1/2 hours, the deal was signed, Warmoth said.

O’Neal was quoted as saying it was a tough decision to leave the Magic.

As O’Neal and the Dream Team arrived at the Olympics, Magic general manager John Gabriel and team president Bob Vander Weide were in town making a new offer reportedly worth $115 million to O’Neal and agent Leonard Armato.

One of O’Neal’s teammates at the Olympics was eager for him to make up his mind.

Reggie Miller confirmed Wednesday that the Lakers are one of three teams that have made him an offer, but it apparently will be pulled off the table now that O’Neal is headed for Hollywood.

That would leave Miller choosing between Indiana and Detroit.

``Strange business these days, strange business,″ Miller said.

Orlando got one deal done Wednesday, re-signing power forward Horace Grant to a $50 million, five-year contract.

O’Neal avoided reporters Wednesday after the Dream Team’s last practice at the Disney Institute in Orlando, so he was not able to comment on a poll in the Orlando Sentinel in which about 90 percent of respondents said O’Neal was not worth $115 million.

``Not the type of thing that you want to come out on the day that your franchise player is about to sign or not re-sign,″ Gabriel said.

The Lakers originally offered more than $95 million over seven years, but they traded Anthony Peeler and George Lynch to Vancouver for a second-round draft pick Tuesday to create more room under the salary cap _ and increase their offer to O’Neal.

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