Barring a last-minute change of heart, long-time Forum favorite Kurt Rambis will agree to a contract with the expansion Charlotte Hornets today, thus ending his association with the Lakers after seven seasons and four championship rings.
Rambis, a free agent, met last weekend with Charlotte officials, including owner George Shinn and General Manager Carl Scheer, and has been offered a multiyear contract with the Hornets for more money than the $525,000 he was paid by the Lakers in 1987-88. One source said that the deal was for a guaranteed $2.4 million over four years.
Rambis would not confirm that a deal was imminent Monday. "As soon as I know, everyone will know," he said Monday when contacted at his Manhattan Beach home. "I went there, I had a nice talk, and that's about all."
Scheer told reporters Monday that negotiations were "touch and go," but that he expected a decision by Rambis today. A league source said, however, that unless the Hornets suddenly reversed fields, Rambis would be headed to Charlotte, where he figures to be the team's starting power forward.
Rambis' playing time with the Lakers had been severely curtailed by Coach Pat Riley, who used Rambis as a starter for a five-week stretch that carried through the first round of the playoffs, then dropped him from the team's playing rotation. Rambis, a starter for 4 1/2 seasons, saw little action in the championship round against the Detroit Pistons, playing in just five games and averaging a little more than six minutes a game.
His regular-season totals in rebounding (268), points (277) and minutes (845) were all career lows. And with Mychal Thompson supplanting Rambis as No. 1 backup to Green, those numbers didn't figure to go up.
Rambis, 30, did not publicly make an issue of his restricted role, and expressed a desire to return to the Lakers, but made it clear that he preferred a situation in which he could play regularly. A source said that the Lakers said they would be unwilling to sign Rambis to a three-year deal.
With Charlotte, Rambis' competition at the power forward spot would come from ex-Clipper Earl Cureton, who signed a two-year contract with the Hornets, and draftees Tom Tolbert and Jeff Moore.
Another factor that weighs toward Rambis signing with the Hornets is that his wife, Linda, who promotes tennis functions at the Forum, apparently would have similar opportunities in Charlotte. With Hornet owner Shinn, the Rambises attended a Team Tennis match in Charlotte last Friday between the Los Angeles Strings and Charlotte Heat.
"Nothing would surprise me," Laker General Manager Jerry West said Monday night. "That's one of the things about free agents, you're subject to losing them."
The Lakers are still talking with free agent Orlando Woolridge, and also have shown interest in Detroit backup center James Edwards. But they are prevented from spending more than a half-million dollars to sign a player by the league's salary cap.
West also said that the Lakers are "very hopeful" of reaching an agreement with David Rivers, the guard from Notre Dame who was the team's No. 1 draft pick, in the next couple of days. Rivers is being represented by Magic Johnson's former agent, Charles Tucker.