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New Laker Keith Owens Still Beating the Odds

October 31, 1991|MARK HEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Keith Owens made the Lakers.

Who'd have thought it?

"Not I," said Owens, beaming.

The UCLA walk-on who was first told there wasn't even room for him on the Lakers' summer league team, earned a place on the varsity Wednesday.

Joining him was another free-agent rookie, Michigan's Demetrius Calip, who was cut, flew home and was called back three days later when Magic Johnson became ill and Tony Smith injured an ankle. Calip will play this weekend, the No. 2 point guard behind Sedale Threatt.

"I just went home to Flint to my grandmother's house," Calip said. "I did a little soul-searching, a little praying, got ready for my next task whatever it was to be, (Continental Basketball Assn.) or Europe.

"I was about to catch my flight to Columbus, Ohio, Monday to play in the CBA. My plane left at 3:15. I received a call about 2:30 on my way out of the door. They said, 'Hold on.' "

Smith goes on the injured list, meaning he'll miss at least five games.

Irving Thomas, last season's 12th man, and Anthony Jones, this spring's lone draftee, were cut.

Jones, a talented scorer, was deemed lacking in court savvy. Coach Mike Dunleavy played him ahead of Owens in the final two exhibition games to take a last look, while Owens died a thousand deaths.

"I actually thought (Jones) was pretty much a shoo-in," Owens said.

"This last week was just the most nerve-racking week I've ever had in my life. Not knowing each day. . . . You can't plan anything in the future. You just live by the day.

"When I think about (the climb from walk-on), I've got to wonder about the experts. Either they aren't experts or I've just been able to overcome incredible odds."

Either way, he'll take it.

Laker Notes

Magic Johnson won't make the trip to Houston and Dallas for the season's first two games Friday and Saturday nights. Trainer Gary Vitti said he may need seven days to get Johnson ready after he resumes practicing, calling into question his availability for Tuesday night's home opener against the Clippers. . . . The Lakers first said Tony Smith would be out four weeks, revised it to one and are now thinking two. Said Vitti: "Originally in Utah . . . we thought we were going to be in big trouble with this. But his MRI came back negative, thank goodness."

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