David Falk, the agent for free agent Juwan Howard, said Saturday that the Lakers were among the teams for which Howard would play, and that a $16-million pay cut probably would not be an obstacle in negotiations.
Howard, who made $20.6 million last season in Denver, just played the last year of a seven-year, $105-million contract signed two teams before. The Lakers have the mid-level exception available ($4.6 million) and a need at power forward. Howard, along with at least several others, has their interest.
By NBA rules, discussions with free agents may not begin until July 1, and players may not be signed until July 16. The nature of the league's salary structure, the large number of teams over the salary cap and the coming luxury tax have put many organizations in budget modes.
"I think Juwan and some very good players are going to have to make some quality-of-life decisions," Falk said. "Juwan is 30. He's made a lot of money. He has the wherewithal to make any decision he's comfortable with.... There are things in life you can't buy. Championships are one of them."
Howard, he added, "could be making a decision for a ring over a check."
While he still considered the departure of client Glen Rice three years ago "a sore subject" with the Lakers, Falk expressed only admiration for Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
"The Lakers would be a great situation for him," Falk said of Howard. "Not the only situation, but a great one. They have to cross some bridges first. Having lost, they need to evaluate."
The season ended and Derek Fisher wept for it, and for the run of championships that ended at three, and for the friends who might not be back in October.
Two days later, his emotions still ran toward fluid, proud of what they had all achieved, saddened by what was left undone.
The tears, he said, came from "way deep inside."
"I've been here seven years," he said. "To grow and develop individually and as a team, to the point where we're the best team in basketball year after year after year, to think about where we were before that, being swept out of the playoffs and no team chemistry and all sorts of other things being talked about.
"Just the fact I wasn't going to have the opportunity this time to have a parade. Opening ceremonies next year, when the season starts. Another ring. A lot of things, emotionally, that came out. It wasn't real until that point. Until that point, even with everything we'd dealt with ... there was a belief we'd get it done."
Mark Madsen, among the Lakers' five potential free agents, said he would stay in Los Angeles through the summer, taking part in the pickup games at UCLA and in Santa Monica, developing his jump shot and jump hook.
He met Saturday with management and coaches and came away with the sense they would like him to return, acknowledging, "There are questions they need to ask first."
"It's been a true privilege to be part of this organization," Madsen said. "Everyone I've dealt with has been first class. If I get the opportunity to come back here, I'll be very happy."
Kobe Bryant is establishing a training schedule that would allow him to compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament and show up for camp healthy and fresh.
"That's what I pay Joe Carbonne for," Bryant said, referring to his longtime personal trainer. "We'll devise a strategy."
He said he would rest his knees, after a season spent dealing with tendinitis in both.
Devean George was told to work on his guard skills -- ball-handling, especially -- and to return in September expecting to start at small forward. Rick Fox is recovering from foot surgery.... Fox will have tests on his surgically repaired foot Monday.... Brian Shaw, who will be a free agent, rescheduled his exit interview for Monday. If it came to it, Robert Horry said he would consider taking a pay cut to return. The Lakers hold a $5.3-million option.