Lakers working on details of roster
L.A. has four roster spots to fill for next season and could go in a number of directions
LOS ANGELES -- We know the Los Angeles Lakers will be raising another banner to the Staples Center rafters on opening night in October. We just don't know quite yet who will be on the court rounding out the roster for the 2010-11 season.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has filled in most of the remaining canvas with three paint roller-sized strokes -- agreeing to terms with head coach Phil Jackson; re-signing starting point guard Derek Fisher to a three-year, $10.5 million deal; and luring backup guard Steve Blake from the free-agent market with a four-year offer worth $16 million.
Now it's time for Kupchak to switch to the fine-bristled brush to color in the remaining details.
With a coach secured and nine players under contract, the Lakers have four roster spots to reach the league's minimum of 13 players.
Two of those spots are believed to be earmarked for the Lakers' two second-round draft picks, Devin Ebanks of West Virginia and Derrick Caracter of Texas El Paso. Both players would warrant rookie league-minimum salaries of $473,604 next season, taking two of the four vacant spots created by the Lakers' departing free agents, Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell, D.J. Mbenga and Adam Morrison.
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Ebanks averaged 15.0 points on 45.5 percent 3-point shooting during summer league, drawing favorable comparisons to former Laker Trevor Ariza because of his length and floor game. Caracter led the Lakers in scoring, averaging 15.4 points on 59.3 percent shooting from the field, to go with 8.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game. ESPN.com analyst David Thorpe likened Caracter to San Antonio's DeJuan Blair, a second-round steal from last season.
Farmar signed with the New Jersey Nets for $16 million over four years, with a player option after the second season.
"It's going to be a new experience," Farmar said in a phone interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday. "It's going to be different, exciting and I'm looking forward to it. A lot of good things are going to come from it."
Farmar, who became a first-time father last week of a baby girl named Phoenix, said playing for Nets head coach Avery Johnson, a former NBA point guard, was the deciding factor that led him to choose New Jersey over Indiana and Portland. The Nets increased their pursuit of Farmar once LeBron James chose to play for Miami.
"[Johnson] was probably the biggest part," Farmar said. "Him explaining how he played Devin Harris and Jason Terry together in Dallas, he helped Devin Harris get to this point in his career where he's an All-Star and looked at as a starter and a legitimate player in this league and he was going to help me do the same."
It remains to be seen what good will come from the Lakers' parting ways with four players who knew the system and pushed the starters in practice and having four new faces at the end of the bench.
Powell has received interest from several teams, including Chicago, Denver, Miami and Atlanta, according to league sources.
Morrison has worked out for several teams in Las Vegas this week, including Washington, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers.
"It went really well," Morrison's agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPNLosAngeles.com of the workout. "A lot of teams are interested. I think we'll have something done shortly."
Bartelstein has another client, Shannon Brown, who is currently in negotiations with the Lakers about returning with a multi-year deal. Brown opted out of the final year remaining on his contract that would have paid him $2.15 million next season.
Brown averaged a career-high 8.1 points and 20.7 minutes last season, and his production spiked to 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in seven games filling in as a starter for the injured Kobe Bryant.
He has received some interest from his hometown Chicago Bulls as well as the Utah Jazz, but the Jazz have fallen somewhat out of the picture after signing Raja Bell to a three-year, $10 million deal Wednesday. Bell had been recruited by Kobe Bryant to join the Lakers.
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"We're having extensive talks," Bartelstein said in a phone interview Thursday. "We're working at it. Mitch [Kupchak] and I are working very hard. Nothing is done as of yet, but we're working really hard at it. That's literally the whole story."
Because the Lakers have Brown's "Bird Rights," they can offer him up to a five-year extension worth a maximum of $5.8 million per year, which is what the mid-level exception is set at for teams above the salary cap.
If they can't reach a common ground with Brown, the next option available to the team is to take a hard look at guards Ibrahim Jaaber and D.J. Strawberry, who showed hopeful signs during summer league. Strawberry averaged 13.0 points and 2.2 assists, Jaaber averaged 5.0 and 4.3 to go along with 1.0 steals per game. There is also a chance the Lakers could extend former first-round pick Javaris Crittenton a training camp invitation. Crittenton was considered for the Lakers' summer league team, but a foot injury prevented him from participating.
The team also has approximately $1.8 million remaining from its mid-level exception after signing Blake. With Bell out of the picture, the team could focus on free agent Matt Barnes, who was with Orlando last season. Another Bryant nemesis like Bell, Barnes shares a similar skill set of being a tough on-ball defender and being able to knock down 3-pointers. Barnes wrote on Twitter on July 9, "B4 LBJ situation went down we've ben n contact w/ the magic, lakers, mia, dallas, knicks & det. Have to see wat happens."
Kupchak says he has permission from Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss to spend the full mid-level exception if he is convinced he can get players to help the team capture a three-peat championship next season. But Kupchak won't just spend it because he can. If there aren't any attractive veterans who will play for $1.8 million or if the Lakers spend more than they would like to in retaining Brown, then the chances of one of the other summer league players such as Jaaber or Strawberry making the team increases.
There could be some movement remaining on the Lakers' staff as well.
Lakers assistant general manager Ronnie Lester met with the Phoenix Suns this week about their vacant general manager position that opened up when Steve Kerr decided to return to TNT as a broadcaster. Should Lester leave, the Lakers would likely go outside the organization to fill his position.
Lakers special assistant Chuck Person decided to stay with the team and was promoted to a full-time assistant coach for next season. There was some interest from Portland's Nate McMillan to have Person join his staff, but that hire could not be made until the Trail Blazers replaced Kevin Pritchard with a new GM. According to a source close to the situation, Person did not want to wait out Portland's hiring process and leave a secure offer from the Lakers on the table.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.