Considered a long shot to make the Lakers roster because of their backcourt depth, it seemed hardly surprising they waived Darius Johnson-Odom in the second round of roster cuts.
But it seemed odd and cold-hearted the Lakers would do such a thing in the middle of a week-long trip to China. In fact, it was just the opposite.
The Lakers waived Johnson-Odom Wednesday evening so he could join the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association, said Johnson-Odom’s agent, Chris Emens. Odom-Johnson traveled with the Lakers to Shanghai where they will play an exhibition game Friday against the Golden State Warriors. But he is in the process of flying to Sichuan, Emens said.
Once Johnson-Odom clears waivers, he will sign a one-year deal worth around $500,000 with the Blue Whales, according to a league source familiar with the situation.
Johnson-Odom surely would have liked to make the Lakers, whom selected him in the 55th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft and invited him for the past two training camps. But through three preseason games, Johnson-Odom averaged only 3.7 points and 1.3 assists in 8.2 minutes a game. Nonetheless, Emens showered plenty of praise toward the Lakers on how they handled the situation, notably geared toward general manager Mitch Kupchak.
“The Lakers are a top organization,” Emens said in an interview with this newspaper. “They were very helpful with the process. Mitch wants what is best for the players. If it doesn’t look like his future is going to be in the purple and gold, he wants to provide the best opportunity for the player at the time.”
Interestingly, Johnson-Odom will play for coach J.T. Prada, who worked as a regional scout for Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis when he was the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009-2011.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org