Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore valued multi-year deal over fondness for Lakers

Kent Bazemore spent only two months last season with the Lakers, averaging a career-high 13.1 points on 45.1 percent shooting. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Kent Bazemore spent only two months last season with the Lakers, averaging a career-high 13.1 points on 45.1 percent shooting. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

ATLANTA — He often stayed up way past his bedtime watching Lakers star Kobe Brant put on a show. Kent Bazemore would then drift off to sleep dreaming someday he would wear the purple and gold uniform while playing alongside his favorite idol.

But all those years later, Bazemore discovered that nostalgia would not become as strong as other factors determining his NBA future. So as he mulled his free agency options this summer, Bazemore decided to sign with the Atlanta Hawks instead. The thought process strictly involved dollars and sense, his two-year guaranteed deal worth $6 million marking the first time in four NBA seasons he would have relative stability. Before, Bazemore had journeyman roles with the Golden State Warriors (2012-14) and Lakers (2014) without much security.

“Having a non guaranteed contract is the most stressful thing in the world, especially when January rolls around and that deadline comes up,” Bazemore said. “You start losing sleep. Being guaranteed is great. Now it’s just about working and trying to earn your stripes.”

Bazemore believed he started earning his stripes last season with the Lakers. He averaged a career-high 13.1 points per game through 28 appearances with the Lakers, arriving in February after the NBA trade deadline in a deal that sent Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors.

“Just being able to iron out the kinks out,” Bazemore said. “Mostly it showed I belong. It showed I can play in this league.”

Bazemore appears motivated to show he can play when the Lakers (1-9) visit the Atlanta Hawks (5-4) tonight at Philips Arena. Bazemore said he “marked this game on my calendar,” though he has only averaged 1.8 points per game in a limited role that has entailed 12.2 minutes through six games.

The Lakers wanted to re-sign Bazemore, but they still opted against granting him a $1.1 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. That move would have allowed the Lakers to match any offers Bazemore would receive. But the Lakers’ main concerns involved pursuing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony while retaining Pau Gasol all with the foresight that any dollar saved would maximize their chances. Still, Bazemore represents one of four players from last season’s Lakers team that left. In Bazemore’s case, his defection had nothing to do with the Lakers ending their season with a 25-57 record, their worst mark in L.A. franchise history.

“The Lakers are the Lakers, they’ll be back I’m sure. Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family are probably cooking some stuff right now to get their guys back out there,” Bazemore said, referring to the Lakers’ front office. “They won a lot of championships and it’s a pedigree that doesn’t die. They’re always around. They’ll always be in the news, whether it’s good or bad. They’ll still get a bunch of TV games. They’re not going anywhere.”

Part of that appeal hinges on Bryant, of course.

“They’re a dangerous team. They have arguably the best player in the game still in Kobe Bryant,” Bazemore said. “He’s going to go down swinging. He’s going to shoot it, score and make some shots. You never know. The guy scored 81 points before. At any given night, he can light it up.”

Bazemore would know after watching Bryant play during his childhood. Yet, despite his short Lakers stint representing one of many items on his “bucket list,” Bazemore’s interactions with Bryant became limited. Bryant only played in six games last season with injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee. Once Bazemore arrived with the Lakers, Bryant was soon ruled out for the rest of the 2013-14 season. During that time, Bryant was rarely seen with the team and did not travel with the team.

“He would come around a little bit,” Bazemore said of Bryant. “I talked to him this summer a little bit and learning different things about the game, off the court, mental preparation, before a game and just learning what he uses to separate himself. That’s stuff I really can’t reveal. I want to use those secrets to my advantage.”

Bazemore believes he’s in a better position to do so, the security from a guaranteed contract giving him more comfort than continuously fulfilling a childhood dream.


Divisions emerge amid Lakers’ 136-115 loss to Golden State

Pau Gasol back in L.A. with his new team, Chicago Bulls

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