The Lakers made it official Friday, signing starting center Chris Kaman to a one-season contract worth $3,183,000 for next season. Backup center Robert Sacre signed his new contract Wednesday. It’s for three seasons, with the first two guaranteed. He’s set to make $788,873 next season, then $915,243 in 2014-15 and $981,358 in 2015-16. Of the players on the current roster, only Sacre and point guard Steve Nash are signed beyond next season, giving the Lakers salary-cap flexibility at long last next summer.
The Lakers waived small forward Metta World Peace, designating him as the team’s amnesty player Thursday. They also cleared salary-cap space by jettisoning his $7.7 million salary for next season.They still must pay his salary, but it doesn’t count against their books for salary-cap and luxury tax purposes. In all, it was reported the Lakers can gain upwards of $30 million in salary and luxury tax savings by dumping his contract. World Peace played four seasons with the Lakers and delivered a 20-point, five-rebound performance in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics that will go down in franchise lore.
“It’s tough to say goodbye to a player such as Metta, who has been a significant part of our team the past four seasons,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “For anyone who’s had the opportunity to get to know him, it’s impossible not to love him. He has made many contributions to this organization, both in his community work as well as in our games; perhaps no more so than in his clutch play in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals in helping to lead us over the Celtics in one of the great playoff wins in Lakers history. We thank Metta for all his contributions and wish him the best of luck in the future.”
World Peace wrote on Twitter: “Mitch called me first. Thanks.”
Other teams can bid on World Peace’s services. He must accept the highest bidder’s offer. It’s believed his preferred destination is the New York Knicks, but it’s not immediately clear if they have interest in the Queens, N.Y. native.
The Lakers have agreed to a contract with free agent Nick Young, agent Mark Bartelstein announced Thursday. The deal is for one season at the veteran’s minimum of $1 million, which is all the salary-cap troubled Lakers can offer. Young (USC) played last season with the Philadelphia 76ers and averaged 10.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in a backup’s role. Young “will be with the team he always dreamed of playing for,” Bartelstein said in his announcement. Young is a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who turned 28 on June 1. He also has played with the Washington Wizards in two different stints and the Clippers. He could be Kobe Bryant’s stand-in while Bryant recovers from an Achilles tendon injury. Young averaged 11.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and one assist in six seasons. He’s a career 37.4 percent shooter on 3-pointers, which should help open things up for the Lakers.
The Las Vegas Summer League is usually something worth ignoring if you’re a Lakers fan. They haven’t had a high draft pick play summer league in years because they haven’t had a high draft pick in years. But the games at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion are fun to watch even if they are a little disjointed and feature a lot of players who’ll never play a minute in the NBA. The Lakers’ summer league team, including newly re-signed center Robert Sacre, plus swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts, forward Lazar Hayward and draft pick Ryan Kelly, begins play Friday. Kelly isn’t playing, but is working out after undergoing surgery on his right foot following his last season at Duke.
Dan D’Antoni is the summer league coach and former Lakers supersub Mark Madsen is one of the assistant coaches.
Here’s the Lakers’ schedule:
Friday, July 12: vs. Cleveland, 5 p.m., Cox Pavilion.
Sunday, July 14: vs. Portland, 3:30 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center.
Monday, July 15: vs. Clippers, 5 p.m., Cox Pavilion.
All games are on Time Warner Cable SportsNet and NBA TV. Tickets are available by calling 702-739-FANS or at UNLVtickets.com or at the box office. Parking is free. Or it has been every time I’ve covered the summer league.
Dwight Howard’s decision to spurn the Lakers in favor of the Houston Rockets didn’t exactly shock Sacre, who said of his former teammate: “Dwight is a unique guy. He was just keeping his poker face on. It wasn’t really a surprise, but he’s not a Laker. I can’t really dwell on it. Just move on, really. No one knew what was going to happen during that whole Dwight thing, so we were all trying to figure out what was going to happen and what direction we were going to go. Now that he’s made a decision, obviously, we can all get situated and get comfortable.”
Ryan Kelly, the Lakers’ second-round draft pick, attended the team’s summer-league practice Wednesday, but he’s not going to play in Las Vegas after undergoing a second foot surgery in as many years in April. Kelly, a 6-foot-11 forward from Duke, gave this update on his rehab and recovery: “I’m starting to do some light shooting and some work in the pool. I feel great. I’m happy with the place I’m in right now. It was an unbelievable feeling (to be drafted by the Lakers last month). It couldn’t have been a better place for me. I’m very happy with where I am. Obviously, I have a lot to prove.”
Robert Sacre, a backup 7-foot center, signed a new three-year contract Wednesday. The deal is actually for two years plus a team option on the third. Sacre averaged 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 6.3 minutes in 32 games as a rookie last season. He started three games. He also played eight games for the D-League D-Fenders, averaging 11 points and 8.8 rebounds in 32.8 minutes.
“I worked so hard, I kind of felt like I, well, I didn’t deserve it but I do deserve it,” Sacre said.
Got the news everyone around the league had been dreading for months. Greg Willard, who officiated 1,494 games in the NBA, died Monday after a fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 54. Willard lived in Huntington Beach and attended Long Beach State. He also officiated high school football in Orange County before joining the NBA 24 years ago. He refereed 136 playoff games, two NBA Finals and the 2006 All-Star game.
“The entire NBA family joins me in mourning the loss of one of our own, Greg Willard,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “Greg touched all those with whom he came in contact thanks to his extraordinary spirit, dedication and hard work. As a Finals referee, he reached the highest level of his profession while at the same time demonstrating a strong commitment to his family and his community. Our thoughts are with his wife, Laurie, their children and the rest of the Willard family during this difficult time.”
There will be a moment of silence before all games played around the league Tuesday night, including the Lakers’ contest against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. In addition, the league’s referees will wear wristbands or patches with Willard’s No. 57 for the rest of the season, according to the NBA.
Willard learned he had cancer last year while working the Western Conference finals series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs. He worked one final game, an exhibition between the Lakers and the Utah Jazz in October at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Kobe Bryant spent a few private minutes with Willard after the game.
The Lakers on Monday denied a story in the New York Daily News that Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant were involved in a scuffle after the team’s Jan. 1 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Howard, Bryant and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said the report, based on a unnamed source, was untrue.
The hits keep coming for the Lakers, who announced Monday that Dwight Howard suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder and will be sidelined indefinitely. The team also said Pau Gasol has a concussion and also will be out indefinitely. Jordan Hill has a right hip injury and won’t travel with the team to Houston for Tuesday’s game.