Lakers host free-agent minicamp
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers opened a two-day veteran minicamp on Tuesday with the hopes of finding a player or two they would be interested in signing for next season whenever that may be with a lockout likely to go into effect on Friday when the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires.
The Lakers invited 21 free agents to work out in front of general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike Brown for a double session on Tuesday followed by a four and a half hour practice planned for Wednesday.
The group was highlighted by Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Ater Majok, the Lakers' three second-round selections from last week's NBA draft, who got their first taste of life in purple and gold.
It wasn't the first time at the Lakers practice facility for Morris, who Los Angeles took with the No. 41 pick out of Michigan, however.
The L.A. native came as a spectator eight years ago when his older brother, DeWayne Morris Jr., had a tryout of his own with the Lakers.
"It was crazy, I was hoping to run into Kobe (Bryant)," Morris said with a smile while recalling his visit with the Lakers as a 12 year old. "It was a great experience to be here, just knowing that this is the level I wanted to be at one day and now that I'm finally here, I'm just ready to capitalize on it."
Despite being a second-round pick without a guaranteed contract, Morris should have his chance to capitalize on his situation with the Lakers. Prior to the draft Kupchak said he hoped to find a player that could make the roster with one of the team's second-round selections and specifically mentioned the need to add backcourt depth.
The Lakers have nine players under contract for next season, which would leave a minimum of four spots open for next season if backup guard Shannon Brown opts out of his contract worth approximately $2.4 million. Kupchak said his "guess" is Brown will do so and explore free agency. Brown has until Thursday to make a decision.
Another one of those roster spots will likely be taken by Devin Ebanks, who was limited as a rookie because of a leg injury. Theo Ratliff is expected to retire as well, which will leave the team searching for a backup center.
Morris, a 6-foot-5 (and still growing) point guard, averaged 15 points and 6.7 assists per game as a sophomore for the Wolverines last season. He met briefly with Kupchak and Mike Brown on Tuesday and said he will try to pick up as much as possible from them in the next couple days because once the lockout occurs, teams' front office personnel will be prohibited from contacting any players.
"I tried to get as much information from these guys as possible to best prepare me to take advantage of this opportunity and (I plan to) really work harder than I ever have in my life," Morris said.
The Lakers' No. 46 selection in Goudelock, a 6-foot-3 combo guard out of the College of Charleston, shined on and off the court Tuesday. He displayed his deep shooting range by making a game-winning 3-pointer to end one of the scrimmages and later joked with reporters when he was handed a Ron Artest jersey to wear for a photo shoot -- it could be the last time a Lakers player wears a jersey with the name "Artest" on the back after the Lakers' mercurial forward petitioned to change his name to "Metta World Peace" last week.
With the labor unrest on the horizon, Goudelock said he planned to return to the College of Charleston this summer to finish his degree. He needs 12 more credits to fulfill the requirements necessary to graduate as a sociology major.
More on the Lakers
For more news, notes and analysis of the Lakers, check out the Lakers Index. Blog
While Morris excelled in college for his passing, Goudelock made a name for himself with his shooting. He connected on 41.2 percent of his 3-pointers during his four-year career, averaging 99 made 3s per season.
"(My shooting) gives me the ultimate confidence because I have an ace, some guys don't have that," Goudelock said. "I always have that ace in my pocket and as long as I'm putting that ace out on the table, it's going to be hard for people not to see it."
Goudelock was matched up with Morris during the scrimmages on Tuesday and will be competing with Morris for one of the last roster spots on the team next season, although there is a possibility that both players make the cut.
He has embraced the underdog role.
"I felt underappreciated coming out of high school, I felt underappreciated in college ... So, no pressure," Goudelock said.
The Lakers were the only team the 6-foot-10, 233-pound Majok worked out for prior to the draft. The Lakers selected Majok with the third-to-last pick in the draft, No. 58. Majok played professionally in Turkey and Australia after leaving the University of Connecticut as a sophomore. Kupchak indicated the team will encourage Majok to continue to develop overseas for the time being.
There is one Lakers player that Majok will pay extra attention to when he's able to find games on TV or online in whatever foreign country he is in.
"I love Lamar (Odom)," Majok said, hoping to match Odom's versatility in playing both forward spots. "Lamar is a player that I pattern my game (after)."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.