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Center planned to finish career with Belgrade team

BELGRADE, Serbia -- One of the most versatile centers in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers' Vlade Divac has all-but announced his retirement.

Divac, who has averaged 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists during an NBA career spanning 16 years, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday he will not make a final decision until Sept. 30, but all indications point to his retirement.

The 37-year-old, who signed an extended contract with the Lakers
last summer, underwent back surgery six months ago and played
only 15 games last season, averaging just 2.3 points and 2.1
rebounds.

Divac told the Times earlier in the week: "Whatever [the Lakers] want to do with me is fine. I'd still love to be a part of the Lakers somehow as a player or as a coach. They brought that kid from high school [Kwame Brown]; I could help work with him, at least. I didn't like the way I finished my career with the injury and not playing. That's the only thing that's kind of holding me to go one more year."

The 7-footer planned to finish his career back in his homeland with Partizan Belgrade, the club he left to join the
Lakers in 1989. But any hopes of an emotional return now appear to be dashed.

"My back is causing me a lot of problems," Divac told Sportska Centrala. "At the
moment I don't feel pain, but after four or five days of playing
I feel it a lot. There is just a 50-50 chance for me to be
fully recovered for the new season. As I don't want to become a
disabled player, I think this is a right time for me to stop
playing basketball."

Divac made his debut for the Yugoslavia national team in 1986
and won two gold medals at the World Championships in 1990 and
2002.