Is Jose Calderon the answer to the Lakers’ point guard needs?

If the Toronto Raptors hope to lure free agent point guard Steve Nash to his native Canada, they’re going to have to use the amnesty clause to jettison Jose Calderon to free up money under the salary cap. If the Lakers hang onto power forward Pau Gasol, they could have an inside track on signing Calderon, his Spanish countryman.

That’s a lot of ifs, and there are a few more to consider before you could see Calderon dressed in a purple-and-gold Lakers uniform next season.

ESPN.com was the first to report the possibility of a union of the Spaniards, pointing out the Raptors strong desire to sign Nash to a three-season contract worth $36 million. Toronto would have to dump Calderon and the Lakers would have to wait until all the teams below the salary cap take a pass on him, per the NBA’s amnesty rules.

The Lakers would then be free to sign him, although it would be for far less than the $10.6 million he’s due to make if the Raptors keep him next season. The Lakers have only the so-called mini-midlevel exception to offer him, at $3 million for 2012-13.

The Raptors and New York Knicks are going after Nash, starting with meetings Sunday. The Raptors reportedly put together a promotional video with hockey great Wayne Gretzky telling Nash that he could do for basketball in Toronto what Gretzky did for hockey in Los Angeles when he was traded to the Kings in 1988.

The Lakers also planned to pursue point guard Ramon Sessions, who opted out of his contract with them next season in order to test free agency. The free-agent negotiating period was set to begin Saturday at 9:01 p.m., Pacific time,

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Lakers extend qualifying offers to Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris

The Lakers took care of some bookkeeping Friday, a little more than 24 hours before free agency begins. They extended qualifying offers to small forward Devin Ebanks and point guard Darius Morris, making them unrestricted free agents. The silly season, a.k.a. free agency, begins Saturday at 9:01 p.m., Pacific time, and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak figures to be busy right from the start. He said he planned to call point guard Ramon Sessions right away in the hope of re-signing him to a long-term contract.

“That’s important,” Kupchak said of reaching out at the first opportunity. “Normally, nothing is determined, but it’s a sign you have some interest.”

In addition to Sessions, Kupchak hopes to re-sign power forward Jordan Hill.

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Mitch Kupchak talks about meeting Kobe Bryant and the says the Lakers could be contenders without a big deal

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke Thursday for the first time about his delayed exit meeting with superstar guard Kobe Bryant, who decided against talking about the 2011-12 season immediately after the Lakers’ playoff ouster in May.

Kupchak and Bryant met for breakfast earlier this month.

“It was very relaxed and there was no agenda,” Kupchak said. “It was really just to sit down and re-acquaint and talk a little basketball. What are you doing this summer? How do you feel? … What are your feelings going forward? It was all very positive.”

Kupchak declined to go into specifics, however.

“He’s been around a long time,” Kupchak said of Bryant. “There aren’t too many postseason interviews that he hasn’t dealt with. It’s been the agony of going out in the first round and then the joy of winning a seven-game series (in 2010 over Boston).

“So he’s kind of used to the ups-and-downs of exit interviews.”

Asked if there was a plan in place for life without Bryant, who turns 34 on Aug. 23 and has only two more seasons remaining on his contract, Kupchak said simply, “I don’t know how you plan for it. We don’t look forward to the day he’s not around.”

Kupchak repeated his belief that the window for further titles with Bryant as the Lakers’ leader had not closed. Kupchak said the core group of Bryant and 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum could contend next season without major changes. Trades could be impossible to pull off this summer, if the run-up to the draft is any indication.

“I think if this group is kept intact, and we’ve got some work to do with existing free agents, I don’t see why we can’t be in the hunt next year,” Kupchak said. “All you want in this league is a chance to be in the hunt. If you’re one of five or six teams at the end of the year that have that feeling, that, ‘Yeah, we can do this. We’re playing our best basketball.’ That’s all you can hope for.”

Despite failing to made a deal in order to move into the first round in the draft, Kupchak said he would continue to pursue trades during the offseason, adding, “We’ll try to hit a home run. The draft is the beginning of the offseason. You continue to pursue trade possibilities and then (Saturday), you pursue trades and free agency.”

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Jim Buss said last week the Lakers wouldn’t make a major trade, but have their plans changed?

There were plenty of doubters when Lakers executive Jim Buss said last week the team probably wouldn’t make a major move during the offseason and that Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would most likely start the 2012-13 season together.

Then came word Wednesday via an ESPN.com report that the Lakers are shopping Gasol around to gauge interest in the 7-footer around the league. The Atlanta Hawks were said to be interested in giving up Josh Smith and a first-round draft pick for Gasol.

It could make for an interesting draft day on Thursday.

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Point guard Mo Williams to the Lakers?

The Lakers need a point guard now that Ramon Sessions has decided to opt out of his contract next season. Mo Williams would like to be a starter again after playing behind Chris Paul with the Clippers last season. Lamar Odom would like to play with anyone other than the Dallas Mavericks, and the feeling apparently is mutual.

So, as ESPN.com reported Tuesday, could a three-team deal work for the Lakers, Clippers and Mavericks? The Lakers could swap the $8.5-million trade exception they got from the Mavericks in exchange for Odom last December to get Williams from the Clippers. The Mavericks could deal Odom to the Clippers and be done with him.

Williams certainly could give the Lakers some offensive explosiveness, and management could return its focus to upgrading the bench for next season. The Lakers thought they had the point guard spot locked up for next season and beyond, but then Sessions decided to test free agency and they went back to square one.

Williams reportedly plans to exercise his $8.5-million option for next season to remain with the Clippers despite a logjam at the point guard spot. In addition to Paul, the Clippers also have promising youngster Eric Bledsoe and veteran Chauncey Billups.

Stay tuned. It could be an interesting next few days for the Lakers and Clippers.

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Lakers’ odds to win 2013 NBA title are 10-to-1

The Miami Heat are 11-to-4 favorites to repeat as NBA champions, according to the odds posted Friday at the Bovada Sportsbook in Las Vegas. The Lakers are 10-1 to win, trailing the Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder (5-1) and the Chicago Bulls (6-1). The San Antonio Spurs also are 10-1. The Clippers are 18-1, for what that’s worth. The Boston Celtics are 25-1. The Charlotte Bobcats and the Detroit Pistons are tied for last at 200-1.

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Top seller: Kobe Bryant’s jersey is No. 1 internationally

Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 Lakers jersey was the top seller outside of the United States during the 2011-12 season, the NBA announced early Thursday morning. Bryant’s jersey was the No. 1 seller internationally overall and also in Europe, in China and in Latin America.

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls was second in sales at Adidas stores outside the U.S. behind Bryant, with LeBron James of the Miami Heat third. Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics was fourth and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic was fifth.

Pau Gasol of the Lakers was 11th internationally, tops among foreign-born NBA players.

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Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions opts to try free agency

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

Ramon Sessions has decided against exercising his option for next season with the Lakers and will become an unrestricted free agent July 1, which wasn’t a surprise since he can secure a bigger and better deal than the $4.55 million he’d get for 2012-13.

A longer and more lucrative deal could come from the Lakers. But any degree of certainty that Sessions will be their starting point guard next season ended with an email announcement from his agent, Jared Karnes, early Tuesday morning.

Karnes wrote in the email: “Ramon has carefully considered this decision. He had to make a career decision and ultimately decided to do what was best in providing stability and longevity for him in the NBA, and this could only be achieved through a multi-year contract.”

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, in a conference call later in the day, said, “I don’t know if disappointed is the right word. I would have preferred he would have extended (his contract) one year because he’s a young player who’s going to get better.”

Kupchak also said, “I’m not quite sure if he’s completely aware of what the future holds for him beginning on July 1st. Beginning today, we have to plan for the contingency that he won’t be available as a free agent on a later date in July.

“And we have to make sure we have backup plans in place.”

The Lakers acquired Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers and dealt veteran Derek Fisher, 37, to the Houston Rockets in a pair of deadline-day trades March 15, creating a starting position for a 26-year-old who had never played in the playoffs.

Stricter luxury taxes that go into effect for the 2014-15 season make it less likely the Lakers will pay top dollar for Sessions in a multi-season contract. The Lakers saved money by trading Fisher to the Rockets and Luke Walton to the Cavaliers, however.

Sessions averaged 12.7 points and 6.2 assists in 23 games after the trade from Cleveland. However, his averages dipped to 9.7 points and 3.6 assists during the playoffs, when he seemed overwhelmed at times in his first postseason games.

Was there enough time to gauge Sessions’ value beyond next season?

“I think he would admit he wasn’t familiar with the playoff intensity,” Kupchak said. “I think he would indicate if he would attend training camp and play a full 82-game schedule, he would play better (in the playoffs next spring).”

Kupchak called Sessions, “an incredible athlete.” Kupchak also praised Sessions’ intelligence and his positive influence in the locker room, but he also acknowledged his shortcomings during the team’s second-round playoff ouster.

“I thought as we approached the playoffs, and particularly in the second round, he wasn’t as comfortable,” Kupchak said. “The playoffs are a completely different experience. … I think he would admit he didn’t play his best.

“And I’m not trying to single him out.”

In other news, Lakers coach Mike Brown acknowledged the departure of coaching consultant Ettore Messina by calling him “truly one of the great basketball minds in the history of the sport.” Messina will coach CSKA Moscow.

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Lakers’ summer league schedule

Can’t wait for next season to start? Get a jump on things next month in Las Vegas. Here’s the Lakers’ summer league schedule:

July 13: vs. Golden State, 5 p.m., Cox Pavilion.
July 14: vs. Sacramento, 5 p.m., Cox Pavilion.
July 16: vs. Miami, 5:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center.
July 17: vs. San Antonio, 3:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center.
July 19: vs. Clippers, 5:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center.

Tickets are $25 for each day and are available at the UNLV box office.

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Lakers exercise option on Andrew Bynum’s contract for next season

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

As expected, the Lakers announced Monday they would pick up their option on All-Star center Andrew Bynum’s contract for next season. Bynum will make $16,473,002 in 2012-13, his eighth season in the NBA.

General manager Mitch Kupchak said days after the Lakers’ ouster from the playoffs last month that he intended to exercise the team’s option on Bynum. He would not address questions about a long-term extension for the 7-footer, however.

Bynum set career bests by averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds in 60 injury-free games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. He also was selected to start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.

His season was not without incident, however.

Bynum was benched for most of the second half of a March 27 game against the Golden State Warriors after taking an ill-advised 3-point shot. He also was fined after blowing off a meeting with Kupchak several days later to discuss his immature attitude.

The Lakers’ commitment to him remains strong, however.

“I think he can be a cornerstone to our organization,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said of Bynum at the team’s exit interviews last month. “But you have to remember that Andrew is still learning what he’s (eventually) going to be.”

When asked what he must do to take the next step in his career, Bynum said last month, “Have a presence, an aura that demands my teammates’ respect if I’m going to have that superstar-type career.”

In other news, The Lakers announced they signed radio announcers John Ireland and Mychal Thompson to multi-year contract extensions. Ireland just completed his first season as play-by-play announcer and Thompson his ninth as color analyst. … The Charlotte Bobcats interviewed Lakers assistant Quin Snyder for their vacant head-coaching position, The Associated Press reported. Snyder completed his first season on Brown’s staff in 2011-12.

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