Kupchak: “I’m not as hopeful”

LAS VEGAS — Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said tonight he was “not as hopeful” of re-signing unrestricted free agent Lamar Odom “as I was Friday.” Asked why, Kupchak said, “It’s just a feeling you get. You have conversations with the player’s representative and, right now, I’m not sure we’re on the same page.”

Asked during halftime of the Lakers-Clippers summer league game, if he was the point of throwing up his hands in frustration, Kupchak said, “Perhaps.”

Kupchak said he had no further plans to talk with Odom’s agent, Jeff Schwartz.

“I understand it’s a process. I am surprised it’s taken us so long to get to this point.”

It’s believed the Lakers have offered Odom a deal of more than $8 million per season. It’s also believed that there are no other teams currently courting Odom, who made $11.4 million last season in the final year of a six-season deal he signed with Miami.

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Lakers-Clippers … and more

I’m in Las Vegas to watch Adam Morrison and the Lakers’ summer league team take on No. 1 draft pick Blake Griffin and the Clippers tonight at Thomas & Mack. Ramona is set to cover a special screening of the Lakers’ championship DVD at L.A. Live. Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton are expected to attend. Odom remains unsigned and hasn’t spoken publicly about his lack of a contract in more than a month. Check back later. There should be some interesting stuff from Vegas and L.A.

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Lakers offer to Odom “a little north of $8 million” a year

OC Register’s Janis Carr bumped into Lakers assistant GM Ronnie Lester at summer league in Las Vegas and he revealed that the Lakers offer to free agent forward Lamar Odom is now a“little north of $8 million” and he expected a deal to get done early next week.

That would seem to jibe with reports out of Portland (one of the two teams with the requisite cap space to beat the Lakers offer) that the Trail Blazers had signed Utah power forward Paul Millsap to a four-year, $32 million offer sheet. Millsap is a restricted free agent, so Portland’s cap space is now tied up for seven days, while the Jazz decide whether to match the offer.

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Kupchak talks about Odom

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak did an interview today with KSPN-AM (710). Here’s some of what he said, all of it addressing contract talks with free agent Lamar Odom:

“I’m not quite sure how it’s going to play out right now. We’ll have to just wait and see, but we would like to have some closure soon. I think they would, too. You’d kind of like to know where you’re going to be. Our options if we don’t sign Lamar back would be limited, so if we’re not going to have him back we would like to look at our options and try to fill around the team we have at this point in time. So, the sooner the better, but I’m hopeful it doesn’t drag on too much longer.”

Question: Is there a deadline in place?
Answer: “I think that deadlines are never really constructive or productive unless it’s a last resort kind of a thing. We’re not there right now. You know, the playing field has kind of leveled out a little bit. I think both people, in terms of the organization and Lamar, they’re aware of what their options are, so everybody deserves a little time to work through the issues. But once again, things like this can’t continue to drag on forever. At some point in time, you have to know where you stand individually as a player and, of course, we need to know what our team is going to look like as some point in time. So, I’m not going to say there is going to be a deadline, but I think we’re working towards a conclusion.”

Q: Are you worried Portland is interested in signing Lamar?
“I think Lamar has options. Certainly, Portland is a team that has options beyond what the other teams that are over the (salary) cap. They have cap room. I don’t know what Portland’s plans are. I don’t know if they’re talking to Lamar or not. I really believe Lamar wants to be in Los Angeles, and it’s a process he has to play out with his representative on a daily basis, asking questions. What are my options? Where do we stand? Let me think about this. It’s a process. It’s not something that takes five or 10 minutes. I think Lamar is in a position where he kind of knows what the landscape looks like. He just needs some clarity and he needs to work through the issues. That’s all.”

Q: Do you take a step backwards if you don’t re-sign Lamar?
A: “I don’t know. It’s certainly possible. We’ve been in situations as an organization where we’ve had to make tough basketball business decisions. About five years, Derek got an offer that just didn’t make sense for us in terms of trying to field a competitive group and make good decisions. And last year it happened with Ronny Turiaf, who just got a wonderful offer from Golden State. So those kinds of things happen. As an organization we seem to be able to work our way through it and put ourselves in a position to compete. I think that began with Dr. (Jerry) Buss, when he bought the team in the last 1970s. He has the ability to recognize what’s a good decision, what’s a good acquisition and when also to fold and say, ‘Listen, you’ve got to take that deal. We can’t match it. And we’ll figure out a way to replace you and, hopefully, keep this team competitive.’ And we’ve been able to do that; his history, since he’s owned this team, has been pretty good.”

Q:What do you do if you can’t re-sign Odom?
A: “You always have a contingency plan. That’s how we ended up with Ron Artest. Going into free agency we felt we had a better than even chance that we could keep this group together; that was Lamar, Shannon (Brown) and Trevor (Ariza). When you go into free agency, it’s really a beast. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out. A lot of times, you have to do a 180-degree turn within 24 hours. You have to have a backup plan. We did have a backup plan, to have Ron. We didn’t know he would be available. We knew he would be a free agent, but I think due Yao Ming’s injury, Houston decided not to get aggressive with Ron Artest because they might be in a position where they might have to re-build if Yao Ming misses the season. We didn’t know if that would happen. We put our calls in and lo and behold, the next day when the negotiations with Trevor didn’t go the way we had hoped, there was Ron Artest. So, yes, we do have contingency plans, but you’re not going to find a Lamar Odom at the end of August sitting around waiting to be signed by the Laker or anybody else. Those types of players, they’re commodities. We’ll do the best we can and we’ll move on, but there is no replacement for Lamar Odom.”

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Morrison interview

Adam Morrison did an interview with a Las Vegas reporter on the eve of the Lakers’ summer-league opener tonight against the Toronto Raptors at Cox Pavilion on the UNLV campus. Tipoff is 5 p.m. Here are a couple of interesting quotes from the story:

“I think (about it) a little bit,” Morrison said of his future in the NBA. “Having not played much last year, I have to see if I can fit in. I don’t think I’m starting over necessarily. I still have confidence in myself. My knee feels pretty good right now, and I’m as close to 100 percent as I can get. I’m trying to learn the triangle (offense) and go out and play. I’m going to use the summer league as a positive.”

Morrison missed all of the 2007-08 season after tearing a knee ligament and played only eight games with the Lakers after they acquired him and Shannon Brown from the Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 7. This could be a make or break season for Morrison.

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Summer league!

The Lakers open summer-league play Friday in Las Vegas. Here’s the schedule:
Friday vs. Toronto, Cox Pavilion, 5 p.m.
Saturday vs. Cleveland, Cox Pavilion, 3 p.m.
Monday vs. Clippers, Thomas & Mack Center, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday vs. Oklahoma City, Thomas & Mack Center, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday vs. Houston, Cox Pavilion, 3 p.m.

Here’s the roster:
Alan Anderson, G/F, 6-6, 223.
Aron Baynes, C, 6-11, 270.
Dominique Coleman, G, 6-3, 190.
Chinemelu Elonu, F, 6-10, 240.
Tony Gaffney, F, 6-8, 220.
Terrel Harris, G, 6-5, 190.
Justin Hawkins, F, 6-7, 220.
Ben McCauley, F, 6-8, 235.
David Monds, F, 6-8, 240.
Adam Morrison, F, 6-8, 205.
Taylor Rochestie, G, 6-1, 185.
Luke Schenscher, C, 7-1, 260.
Mustafa Shakur, G, 6-3, 190.
Coach: Chucky Brown.
Assistants: Bill Bertka, Rasheed Hazzard.

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Jordan Farmar tearing up the World Series of Poker

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Jordan Farmar says he’s a beginner at poker. Which means he’s great at bluffing, or a really, really quick study. The Lakers point guard, was invited to the event by PokerStars.net, has made it to the serious part of the tournament along with established pros like Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth and Joseph Hachem.

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He’s currently in 69th place with 110,000 chips. Nearly half of the more than 5,000 players have been eliminated.

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Artest meets the media

Ron Artest held his introductory press conference today. Among the highlights:

He started by asking with a laugh, “Where’s TMZ?”

He put his arm around Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and said, “Once again, I’m underpaid.”

He also said, “At the end of the day, if you can’t live on $33 million, you can’t live.”

Asked about attending Finals games at Staples Center, he said, “I was there as a star. I had my shades on. I had to get my L.A. on. I love L.A. I love the bright lights.”

Asked about maturing, he said, “”I was a bad teammate when I was in Indiana. Over the last couple of years I learned how to be a good teammate. That was more important than my game, learning how to be a good teammate. I think that year off when I got suspended (2004-05), I was able to reflect and see how I didn’t want my career to end.”

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Odom update

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said today he’s hopeful of gaining a sense of clarity in his talks with Lamar Odom’s agent, Jeff Schwartz. “I’m hopeful there will be some clarity in the next couple of days,” Kupchak said. “I think Lamar probably needs to work his way through. Maybe it’s helpful for him to see other players sign and sign for whatever they signed for. Maybe it’s easier to see yourself in that group.” Odom spent several days in Malibu and Las Vegas, unwinding after helping the Lakers win the NBA title last month.

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Salary cap set at $57.7 million

The league set the salary cap for next season at $57.7 million, which is down from $58.68 last season. The luxury tax for 2009-10 will be $69.92 million, down from $71.15 million. Any team whose salary is over the $69.92 million figure for next season will have to pay a $1 tax for each $1 it is above the luxury tax threshold. The Lakers are already north of $80 million for next season and they haven’t re-signed sixth man Lamar Odom yet. The Lakers paid $7.1 million because they were that much over the luxury tax threshold last season.

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