Lakers waive Divac; retirement for big man next?
HONOLULU -- Vlade Divac was placed on waivers by the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, apparently ending his long career.
The Lakers had the option of picking up a one-year, $5.4 million contract option or buying Divac out for $2 million. The 7-foot-1, 260-pound center, one of the first Europeans to make a significant impact in the NBA, will be owed the $2 million if he clears waivers, which seems a sure thing.
"If he could play, he would play," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "Here it is, the first week of training camp, and he can't play."
The 37-year-old Divac underwent back surgery in January, and played in only 15 games for the Lakers last season, averaging 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds. He averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in 15 previous NBA seasons -- seven with the Lakers, two with Charlotte and six with Sacramento.
The Lakers signed Divac in the summer of 2004 after trading center Shaquille O'Neal to Miami.
"We signed him to a two-year deal thinking he would play two years," Kupchak said.
The Lakers and Divac were originally supposed to make a decision on the player's contract status in July, but mutually agreed to put the decision off until last week. At that stage, they agreed again to extend the deadline until Oct. 21.
Marc Fleisher, Divac's representative, didn't immediately return a phone call. He said last week that his client had gone back and forth several times in terms of trying to play again.
"We both agreed to work with each other and give each other some time to make these decisions," Kupchak said.
Divac was quoted last month as saying he planned to retire, but wanted to remain with the Lakers as an assistant coach and scout.
"We'll talk about that down the road," Kupchak said. "Certainly he could be claimed on waivers. I think it's highly unlikely. The back concerns are the same.
"There's a feeling he'll never play again. Anticipating he'll never play again, I don't think there's a doubt he's the premier European player to play in the NBA."
Divac joins centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in league history to get 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots.
Divac said several times he wouldn't play again if he didn't return to the Lakers, where he began his career in 1989 as the 26th overall pick in the NBA draft. He was born and raised in Yugoslavia, and played in that country's top league before coming to the NBA. Divac became a U.S. citizen in the summer of 2000.
The Lakers traded Divac to Charlotte in 1996 for the rights to current Lakers star Kobe Bryant, and Divac joined the Kings two years later.
"We didn't anticipate Vlade being here. I never heard from him during the offseason," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, adding that the decision to place Divac on waivers "was probably a good decision for both parties."
When asked if he was disappointed, Jackson replied: "I'm disappointed Vlade wasn't the performer of five years ago, but that's the way it is."
The Lakers also announced Thursday the signing of Adam Parada, a 7-foot center who last played in the NBA Developmental League. Parada, out of UC Irvine, averaged 5.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 13.8 minutes in 23 games for the Huntsville Flight.
He was a member of the Sacramento Kings' training camp roster in 2004, but was waived.
Kupchak said Parada wasn't signed to replace Divac, but to give the Lakers another big man in training camp. Kupchak didn't rule out the possibility of Parada making the final roster, but that seems unlikely. Parada practiced with the Lakers on Thursday.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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