Stephen M. Silverman
July 16, 2004 08:00 AM

REMAINED: Despite fears that Kobe Bryant would defect from the Los Angeles Lakers to the L.A. Clippers, the 25-year-old free agent signed a seven-year contract with the team he has called home for eight years, since entering the NBA after high school. His reported salary: $136.4 million. “Being a Laker is part of me,” he told reporters after signing the contract. Earlier this week, Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in a four-player deal that will send Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Caron Butler to Los Angeles, and give the Lakers a future No. 1 draft pick.

AXED: Two stars of CBS’s Emmy-nominated series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation were fired for breach of contract, KCBS-TV and Variety report. Actors Jorja Fox and George Eads, who play investigators Sara Sidle and Nick Stokes, reportedly were fired after asking for more money to stay on the show. Danica Smith, publicist for both Fox and Eads, tells AP that Fox was fired Wednesday but did not have details. Smith could not confirm whether Eads was fired. CBS had no comment. The actors were in the fifth year of their seven-year contracts.

DROPPED: The sale price of Madonna’s Beverly Hills estate has been discounted for the second time in slightly more than two years, reports the Wall Street Journal. The drop was from $10.9 million to $9.75 million, as being below $10 million is a selling point in the area. Madonna bought the 7,000-sq.ft. house from Diane Keaton in 2000 for about $6.5 million before spending about $2 million on renovations. Madonna, 45, is selling because her time is spent mostly in Britain and New York.

QUALIFIED: After struggling to reach the Olympic finals, Marion Jones qualified in the long jump on Thursday with 23 ft. 4 in. – her best jump since 1998. It was also the second longest jump by a woman this year. She will now join the Olympic team. On the medal stand, she told the crowd: “Someone told me to just go out and have fun, and I had fun out there.”

DENIED: Ocean’s 12 producer Jerry Weintraub tells the Associated Press that, contrary to earlier reports, “We were never approached by any Mafia for extortion money” while Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones were shooting scenes for the movie in Italy. As part of a Mafia investigation, officers noticed that suspected mobsters were hanging around the film set, possibly looking for money, police official Giuseppe Linares had said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s total fabrication,” counters Weintraub. “No one ever threatened any of us. If anybody was going to get extorted it was me.”

CAST: Val Kilmer, 44, will play Moses in the upcoming stage musical The Ten Commandments, set to open Sept. 27 at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater, reports Variety. Kilmer previously lent his voice to the Old Testament hero in the animated musical The Prince of Egypt. The musical Commandments toured Belgium, Switzerland and France in 2003. The American version makes its debut in a revamped version.

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