NBA free agency: Lakers reach out to Jodie Meeks

Lakers guard Jodie Meeks worked hard to maximize his opportunity to play more during the team’s injury-plagued season, and he plans to continue sharpening his skills during the summer. (File photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Lakers guard Jodie Meeks worked hard to maximize his opportunity to play more during the team’s injury-plagued season, and he plans to continue sharpening his skills during the summer. (File photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Apparently, the phone calls came in as swiftly as one of Jodie Meeks’ hot shooting performances.

“A numbers of teams,” including the Lakers, reached out to Meeks’ representatives on Monday night expressing interesting in acquiring him, according to a league source familiar with the situation.

It has not been specified what Meeks will look for in free agency, regarding the size and length of his contract and which teams would most interest him. But after posting a career-high 15.7 points on 46.3 percent shooting last season, Meeks expressed strong interest in re-signing with the Lakers.

The Lakers like Meeks, who showed marked improvement in all areas of his game, including driving, ball handling, shooting consistency and finishing. But the Lakers are trying to avoid signing all role players beyond one-year deals. After making $1.55 million last season with the Lakers, Meeks will likely field more lucrative offers.

The Lakers will first center their focus on acquiring LeBron James and/or Carmelo Anthony before filling out the rest of their roster.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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NBA free agency: Jordan Hill hoping for 3-4 year deal

The Lakers' Jordan Hill smiles after securing a rebound before a timeout and the lead against the Celtics, Friday, February 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

The Lakers’ Jordan Hill smiles after securing a rebound before a timeout and the lead against the Celtics, Friday, February 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

Although he would love to re-sign with the Lakers, forward Jordan Hill will likely sign with a team that offers him a stable role and a multi-year deal, according to a league source familiar with his thinking.

The Lakers have only definitively ruled out seldom-used forward MarShon Brooks as the lone free agent on the team, according to a league source, and interest in the 11 remaining free agents on the roster will largely hinge on two external factors. Those entail how the Lakers fare in their pursuit of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as well as what offers the Lakers’ free agents receive elsewhere.

The Lakers are very unlikely to grant any role player, including Hill, a deal spanning three or four years. The Lakers would like to maximize cap flexibility for Kevin Love in 2015 and Kevin Durant in 2016.

Hill’s chances of remaining with the Lakers initially appeared slim. Despite posting a career-high 9.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in the 2013-14 season, Hill grew frustrated with Mike D’Antoni’s system that featured him having a fluctuating role partly because of his preference for a so-called “small ball” system. The Lakers also believed Hill was not an ideal fit for D’Antoni’s system.

With D’Antoni’s departure, Hill’s chances of returning to the Lakers have increased. But there’s also various complicating factors. The Lakers drafted Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, a bruising post player who could take away Hill’s minutes. Hill’s preference for a long-term deal also contradicts the Lakers’ preferences for small-term deals.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Magic Johnson unlikely to have role in Lakers’ free agent pitches

Former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson is joined by WNBA president Laurel Richie in front of Staples Center on Feb. 5, 2014, to announce that he is part of a group buying the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson is joined by WNBA president Laurel Richie in front of Staples Center on Feb. 5, 2014, to announce that he is part of a group buying the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Unlike his playing days in which he made dazzling passes and clutch shots, Magic Johnson is not expected to assist the Lakers in their latest quest to return to championship contention.

Johnson suggested earlier this year he would like to help the Lakers in recruiting potential free agents. But Johnson, who is part of the ownership group that owns the Dodgers, is currently on vacation in Italy and will likely return in a couple of weeks, said a source familiar with Johnson’s itinerary. Because of that schedule, Johnson would not be around for any of the Lakers’ potential meetings with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Johnson told reporters in February that he had reached out to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to see if he could help with recruiting efforts.

“I love them. I’m going to support them,” Johnson said. “People don’t know that was my role with Dr. Buss for a while. I was the first to call Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, all these guys. That was my job, calling them and recruiting them.”

Johnson sold his 4.5 ownership stake with the Lakers in 2010 and remains an unpaid vice president with the team.
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Lakers don’t expect Julius Randle to have surgery; will know officially later this week

"Kentucky forward Julius Randle, reacts after being selected seventh overall by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) "

“Kentucky forward Julius Randle, reacts after being selected seventh overall by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) “

Julius Randle showed up late on his first day of work with the Lakers, but the reasons had nothing to do with sleeping in, staying stuck in traffic or doing anything negligent.

It had everything to do with Randle visiting two different doctors on Monday both to have a physical and further assess whether his right foot needs surgery. Then, Randle arrived about a half hour late at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo for his introductory press conference, speaking glowingly about the Lakers’ drafting him seventh overall and teaming up with Kobe Bryant. But Randle will hardly have much time to bask in that attention. He plans to fly to Indianapolis on Tuesday where he will visit another doctor, according to sources familiar with Randle’s itinerary.

Although they will not have full clarity until the end of this week, the Lakers do not expect Randle will need surgery to treat a right foot after a pin was incorrectly placed there when he broke it while playing for his Dallas-area high school.

“Right now, based on his performance and his play last year through a full schedule,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, “we don’t expect anything different to come up.”

The Lakers expressed similar optimism following the NBA Draft last week, but Randle had noted he would have more clarity when he visits a series of doctors to determine his rehab. Still, Randle averaged a league-leading 24 double doubles for the University of Kentucky and played in all 40 games last season. Because of that Randle said he “plans to play” in the Las Vegas Summer league from July 11-21.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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NBA free agency: Lakers make Ryan Kelly restricted free agent

in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Calif., on Friday, April 4, 2014.  (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Calif., on Friday, April 4, 2014.
(Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)

The Lakers took a small step in providing clarity to their nearly barren roster, extending reserve forward Ryan Kelly with a $1.1 million qualifying offer that will make him a restricted free agent.

The move was expected after Kelly averaged eight points on 42.3 percent shooting and 33.8 percent from three-point range after the Lakers selected him with the 48th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. The Lakers went against offering an extended qualifying offer to reserve forward Kent Bazemore in hopes to maximize cap space to pursue LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in free agency.

The Lakers have a $3 million cap hold to secure Kelly, but he likely gained the edge because there are fewer power forwards he will have to compete on the open market than Bazemore. Kelly made $490,180 this season and would likely only need a slight raise to secure him. By making Kelly a restricted free agent, the Lakers have the right to match any offer he receives from other teams. Although Kelly will entertain those offers, he prefers playing with the Lakers after receiving plenty of opportunities to develop.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Lakers Q&A: Luke Walton reflects on Lakers’ previous rebuilding project

Los Angeles Laker Luke Walton visited Don Bosco Technical Institutes Marco Nunez Basketball Camp that ends today, Thursday, July 28, 2011.  Walton gave an inspiring discussing on basketball, education and motivated players in the basketball camp to strive to achieve their best and gave examples from his youth and how he has achieve his success.(SGVNStaff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

Los Angeles Laker Luke Walton visited Don Bosco Technical Institutes Marco Nunez Basketball Camp that ends today, Thursday, July 28, 2011. Walton gave an inspiring discussing on basketball, education and motivated players in the basketball camp to strive to achieve their best and gave examples from his youth and how he has achieve his success.(SGVNStaff Photo by Walt Mancini/SXCity)

Below is a recent conversation with former Lakers forward Luke Walton about his memories of the Lakers’ rebuilding season nearly a decade ago. Walton, who played for the Lakers from 2003 to 2012, currently serves as an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

What similarities/differences do you see between the Lakers’ rebuilding last decade to the current one?


Walton:
It’s similar. After Shaq traded and Phil [Jackson] left, Karl Malone retired and [Derek Fisher] left and stuff like that, we were kind of starting over from scratch again. With the Shaq trade, though, the difference is we had more established already. We got Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Kobe [Bryant] was obviously younger. We were working in the same way. This team struggled and is looking for a new coach. There’s definitely similarities and the difference right now is they have three players under contract next year. They have a lot more work to do this time around than when Shaq got traded.

Can you take me through what the experience was like to go from losing in the NBA Finals to Detroit in 2004, there being so much change on the team and then having a missed playoff appearance the next season?


Walton:
It was definitely a great learning experience. This was the first time in my career I had ever been a part of a losing team coming from college and high school and then my rookie year going to the Finals. When you’re in high school and college, you’re normally always with the same coach and always with the same players. It was a crash course in the business side of professional sports and how quickly things can change. It was frustrating and hard. But you always learn a lot more from losing than when everything is going great, you’re winning and things seem easy.
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NBA free agency: Lakers’ Kent Bazemore won’t receive qualifying offer to become restricted free agent

 Newly-aquired Lakers Kent Bazemore, left, and MarShon Brooks wait at the scorers table during a timeout in the first half, Friday, February 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

Newly-aquired Lakers Kent Bazemore, left, and MarShon Brooks wait at the scorers table during a timeout in the first half, Friday, February 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

In a move aimed to further maximize the cap space available both to sign LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers will not extend reserve forward Kent Bazemore the $1.1 million qualifying offer that would make him a restricted free agent, according to a league source familiar with the situation. Such a move also would have cost the Lakers $3 million in having a cap hold, a mechanism that is used to create space for a player expected to sign with a team.

This development was first reported by ESPN Los Angeles and Eurobasket.

Had they granted a qualifying offer to Bazemore, the Lakers would have had the rights to match any offer he could attract on other teams. Although Bazemore will test the open market, both Bazemore and the Lakers have mutual interest in each other, according to league sources familiar with the situation.

Ever since acquiring him in a trade that sent Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers liked Bazemore’s athleticism, defensive energy and work ethic that spurred a 13.1 points per game average through 28 appearances. Bazemore had surgery to a repair a tendon in his right foot in April, but he has progressed since then toward on-court workouts, according to a league source familiar with his progress.

Bazemore would prefer re-signing with the Lakers, though he will prioritize having the chance to have a similar role as last season over the length and cost of any contract offer he receives.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Nick Young gets beat one-on-one at his youth basketball camp

Once it comes time to negotiate when he becomes a free agent late Monday night, Nick Young better hope Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak doesn’t come across the video he just posted on his Instragram account.

What incentive does Kupchak have to give Young a multi-year deal when the Lakers forward cannot even defend a young player one-on-one at his basketball camp? Well perhaps by Young citing his team-leading 17.9 points on 43.4 percent shooting, becoming a locker room favorite and his willingness to take a hometown discount. Young could also include the video below, making up for his previous defensive lapse with a vicious block on another youngster.


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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NBA Draft: Julius Randle shares childhood photo wearing Kobe Bryant’s jersey

Even before playing in an actual NBA game, Julius Randle passed a rookie test that has nothing to do with a vertical jump or an individual workout. It has everything to do with starting off on the right foot with a key colleague.

With the Lakers selecting him with the seventh overall pick in the NBA Draft, Randle wasted no time gushing about Kobe Bryant. So much that Randle quickly posted a childhood photo of himself on Instagram in which he is wearing Bryant’s former No. 8 jersey.

“It’s going to be amazing. I grew up a huge fan of Kobe. He was my idol growing up as a player,” Randle said on a conference call with reporters. “Now I have a chance to pick his brain and learn a lot from him. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

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NBA Draft: Jordan Clarkson to use second-round draft selection as motivation

Each time his name was passed up on the draft board, Jordan Clarkson’s received more fuel to prove the general public wrong. Each time Clarkson’s name was passed up, the Lakers became more giddy about the prospect of acquiring him.

Shortly after selecting Kentucky forward Julius Randle with the seventh pick of the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak furiously worked the phones in trying to secure a second round pick. The net result: the Lakers acquired the rights of the Washington Wizards’ 46th pick for $1.8 million and used it to select Clarkson, which Kupchak labeled as a “ball handling guard.”

“To get a guy like that at 46,” Kupchak said, “we’re pleased.”

Clarkson sounded giddy too later in a conference call with reporters, gushing about the Lakers’ championship history and teaming up with Kobe Bryant. Still, Clarkson admitted feeling slighted he was not selected earlier.

“My agent was telling me early on I may go in the late first round, but be prepared for anything to happen,” Clarkson said. “I was and I just took it in stride. Now I can just use it as motivation to really push me at that next level.”

Clarkson, 22, isn’t necessarily expected to take Steve Nash’s position even if uncertainty persists on the nerve irritation in his back that kept him out last season for all but 15 games. But Kupchak sounded optimistic about Clarkson’s future that will start with competing on the Lakers’ Summer League team from July 11-21.

Kupchak persistently gushed about Clarkson’s 6-foot-3, 185 pound frame and versatility after averaging 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in one season with Missouri after transferring from Tulsa after his sophomore season.

“He’s got great size,” Kupchak said. “Good athlete. Really good size. Good defender. Excels probably at attacking the rim. Maybe not as good of a shooter, probably, as he will be when he works on it. He left school a year early. He transferred. So, I’m sure he was thinking that maybe he would get drafted higher and maybe he has a chip on his shoulder — an expression you’ve heard today — to come out and prove something.”

Turns out that is actually the case. Yet, in a way, Clarkson prefers this scenario happening.

“I was enthused. It’s a blessing,” Clarkson said. “God has a plan for everybody. I feel like I’, in a good situation. It was a longer process and I worked real hard and I felt like I’m in the right situation. I just have to make the best out of my opportunity.”

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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