The Rockets star forward, an unrestricted free agent, will consider a team's chances of winning an NBA championship when deciding where he'll bring his skills next season, his agent says.
David Bauman said Wednesday that his client would like to return to Houston, but Artest would also think about signing with a contending team -- and that might rule out the Rockets if Yao Ming's broken left foot keeps him out for the season.
Bauman wouldn't say which teams have contacted him about Artest. But he said he would expect Artest to talk to James and Bryant if the Cavaliers or Lakers teams were interested in him.
"All the superstars are very savvy and great recruiters," Bauman said. "The superstars are sometimes even better recruiters than the general managers or their staffs. Between Kobe and Ron or LeBron and Ron, there are always conversations that occur. I think I'll just leave it at that at this point."
The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday that James and Artest met Tuesday in Los Angeles. James, the league MVP, was in Los Angeles on Sunday for the BET awards. Bauman declined to comment on the report.
Artest earned more than $7 million last season. Houston general manager Daryl Morey said he has contacted Bauman, but Artest's agent would not comment on the progress so far.
"Obviously, we'd love to do a deal with the Rockets," Bauman said. "At this point, I think it's premature. We really have to figure out what all the options are and what's the best place for Ron, both financially and from a playing perspective."
Houston television station KRIV, citing unidentified sources, reported the Rockets would only be willing to offer Artest a one-year deal.
Cleveland would be an intriguing option, where Artest could round out a formidable trio with James and Shaquille O'Neal.
Cavs coach Mike Brown was an assistant at Indiana when Artest was there in 2003-04. The two developed a good relationship, and it was Brown who chased Artest into the seats when the sometimes volatile forward went after a Detroit fan in Auburn Hills, Mich., during the infamous brawl there in '04.
The Cavaliers could use a tough, physical defender like Artest after struggling to guard Orlando's perimeter shooters in the Eastern Conference finals last season. James has said that Artest gives him as much trouble as any defender he faces.
All of this could deepen the misery for the Rockets, who already expect to be missing Tracy McGrady for the first half of next season as he tries to come back from microfracture surgery on his left knee. The team is waiting for more medical opinions on Yao's fractured left foot, which a team doctor said this week could threaten his career.
Bauman would not say how much the injuries might impact Artest's decision, saying only that his client will definitely size up a team's chances of winning a championship before signing anywhere.
"We will give that very strong consideration," Bauman said.