There's no such thing as a Lakers off-season, but there have been very few things that have caused the organization to stress out during the dog days of summer. Sure, there was the uncertainty on whether Phil Jackson would return, but he decided a week after considering retirement to stay for one more year. There were also a few questions on whether Derek Fisher would remain or join the super-team that is the Miami Heat. Other than that, it's all been clear skies.
Lakers fans have sneered at LeBron James and "The Decision," a move that makes the Heat a legitimate contender against the Lakers. But I believe the defending champs still remain the favorite for the 2010-11 season. Lakers fans have enjoyed some summer league action, with rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter proving to be some of the top players thus far. And surely, Lakers fans have taken a break from basketball and enjoyed normal summer enjoyments such as the beach, sleeping in and doing nothing. For the sake of the blog's Web traffic numbers, I hope that's not the case. For the sake of everyone having a balanced life, I hope it's so.
The Lakers have their main corps intact, but that doesn't mean General Manager Mitch Kupchak can take vacation just yet. Among the items on the agenda
1. What to do with Shannon Brown
Brown opted out of his contract, but that was done with the hope that he could either get a long-term deal with the Lakers or see if his market value would give him a better financial deal than the $2.1 million he was going to make this season. Though The Times' Broderick Turner reported Brown has attracted interest from the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, there's been little indication that he's been heavily sought. Nonetheless, the Lakers have considered keeping Brown as long as it's financially feasible because they like his upside and attitude. Nonetheless, The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Turner report the Lakers lately are considering letting him go.
2. Will Lakers pick up more free agents?
With the Lakers signing former Clipper guard Steve Blake to a four-year, $16-million deal and agreeing with Fisher to a three-year deal worth about $10.5 million, The Times reports that the Lakers have a total payroll worth $89.09 million. The NBA salary cap for the 2010-11 season will be at $58.04 million, while a dollar-for-dollary luxury tax threshold will kick in at $70.31 million. The Lakers also have $1.77 million left on their mid-level exception. With the Lakers needing to fill four more names to their roster, it's unclear how they'll do moving forward with the money constraints.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Bryant will meet Wednesday with free agent guard Raja Bell, adding more intrigue to their relationship, given the contentiousness they had in the 2006 playoffs, which serves as an integral reason why Bryant wants him. Acquiring Bell would instantly add a defensive presence to the backcourt, a variable the Lakers sorely lacked last season. Bresnahan and Turner have also indicated Shaun Livingston is an option, though he's had incredibly bad luck with injuries. Some Laker fans have wondered if Tracy McGrady is an option, but as McGrady indicated on his Twitter account the Lakers' front office hasn't contacted him. Tweeted McGrady: "laker nation is coming hard for me... no talks with front office yet tho."
3. What about Adam Morrison , D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell?
Nothing new has been reported since, but it's been indicated that the Lakers don't expect to keep Morrison, Mbenga or Powell. Each brought great attitude and work ethic to practice, but didn't receive much playing time. Nonetheless, the Lakers haven't made any decisions.
4. How about the rookies?
Kupchak stressed after the NBA draft that he wouldn't just keep his draft picks because it'd save him money. They also had to be good. With Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter headlining summer league, Kupchak surely can count on them to help balance his checkbook. If the Lakers keep Ebanks and Caracter after training camp, The Times reports they could make $473,604 as rookie forwards.
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Photo: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak still has a busy off-season. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times.