NBA on Free-Agent Spending Spree

NEW YORK -- One weekend into the free-agent market and nearly half a billion dollars has already been spent.

The Miami Heat and New York Knicks are in for $350 million, the Indiana Pacers have committed $80 million and the Los Angeles Lakers are waiting for Shaquille O'Neal to answer their $95-million offer.

All around the NBA, teams are lining up with tens of millions of dollars more, and the best players lucky enough to be without contracts are enjoying an unprecedented payday.

"I'm firing my mother. She's off the Barkley payroll. She had me too soon," Phoenix Suns' Charles Barkley said Sunday as the first wave of movement and signings took place.

Juwan Howard, the 23-year-old forward from the Washington Bullets, reportedly agreed to a seven-year, $98-million deal with Miami. The Heat also was said to have agreed to terms with Alonzo Mourning on a seven-year contract worth $105 million.

Miami still has $2 million to $3 million of salary-cap room and still needs a point guard -- especially if Tim Hardaway agrees to a free-agent deal with Houston -- and Pat Riley may pursue Derek Harper, whose rights were renounced by the New York Knicks on Sunday.

That allowed New York to sign free-agent guards Allan Houston (Detroit) and Chris Childs (New Jersey) and to finalize a trade for two-time All-Star and former overall No. 1 pick Larry Johnson.

Charlotte received forward Anthony Mason and center Brad Lohaus from the Knicks.

Houston will get $56 million over seven years and Childs gets $24 million over six years.

"We hit the jackpot," general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. "We'll be one of the top teams competing for the championship, not only this year but for years to come."

The Pistons were angry that they didn't have a chance to respond to the Knicks' offer to Houston, one of the best young shooting guards in the league.

"I was surprised because if money was the issue, he could have gotten more money from us. The trump card we had was we'd pay him more money," Pistons vice president Rick Sund said. "Obviously, he elected not to play in Detroit."

Early Saturday morning, Houston told the Knicks he'd accept their offer. If Houston had wavered, Grunfeld was ready to call Reggie Miller's agent. "You've got a lot of players that probably haven't got to the playoffs yet or the second round that are making $10 million plus. That I don't agree with," Miller said after the U.S. Olympic team beat Greece 128-62. Miller was the leading scorer in the Dream Team's five exhibition games, averaging 14.2 points.

Dikembe Mutombo is a free agent and may be able to get a better offer than the $8.5 to $9 million annually that the Suns would have paid him in the proposed Barkley deal. The Atlanta Hawks were believed to be offering close to $10 million annually for seven years, and Detroit was in on the bidding as well.