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The Inside Track

Hunter Passes on Free Agency and Will Stay With Lakers

June 22, 2002|Tim Brown

Lindsey Hunter notified the Lakers on Friday afternoon that he would return to the team next season, a decision that could cost the club as much as $8.1 million in the next two years.

Samaki Walker reached the same conclusion last week, though for considerably less, at $1.54 million, and so it appears most of the players in Phil Jackson's regular rotation will return.

The Lakers' remaining free agents are Devean George, Brian Shaw, Mitch Richmond, Slava Medvedenko and Jelani McCoy. According to NBA regulations, the Lakers can negotiate with free agents beginning July 1 and can sign them on July 17.

Hunter, who could have opted out of his contract, came to the Lakers from Milwaukee last June in a trade for Greg Foster, a deal that insured them against further injury to or a slow recovery by Derek Fisher, who required foot surgery for the second consecutive summer.

Hunter played 82 regular-season games and started 47 of them, most early in the season during Fisher's rehabilitation.

Hunter made 38% of his three-point shots and averaged 5.8 points. In the playoffs, he spent a majority of his playing time defending Tony Parker and Mike Bibby, in particular, and averaged only 7.3 minutes.

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