Of all the pages, paragraphs and sentences on official documents, there was a phrase that seemed insignificant in the trade that made Gary Payton and Rick Fox ex-Lakers last August.
Lottery-protected draft pick.
But the Lakers and the playoffs are a fading match, bringing to light the terminology of the first-round selection they are supposed to send the Boston Celtics.
In the trade, the Lakers acquired Chucky Atkins, Jumaine Jones and Chris Mihm and gave up Payton, Fox and their first-round pick in this year's draft ... unless they were in the lottery.
If that happens, as it looks as if it will, the Lakers keep the pick and give their first-round selection to the Celtics next season, unless they are in the lottery again. The pick could be retained by the Lakers as long as they are in the lottery until 2011, at which point they would have to surrender it to the Celtics.
Barring an unexpected run, the Lakers are probably looking at the No. 12 or No. 13 overall selection if they do not move up in the lottery process, which takes place May 24 in Secaucus, N.J.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak, in Indiana to scout a high-school all-star game, declined to comment on specific players, although the Lakers are believed to be seeking another post player and help at point guard.
The Lakers have not been a lottery team since 1994, the last time they failed to make the playoffs. They took Eddie Jones with the 10th overall pick.
College underclassmen and age-eligible high school seniors have until May 15 to make themselves available for the draft. They can remove themselves from consideration by June 21 if they have not hired an agent. The draft takes place June 28.
The Lakers are on pace to set a league record for fewest forced turnovers in a season, but now they have competition for it.
The Lakers have forced an average of 11.5 turnovers, below the record low of 12 per game set in 2001-02 by the Houston Rockets, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are forcing only 11.98 per game.
Coach Frank Hamblen said last week the Lakers were "starting to erode my immune system" after a loss to the Denver Nuggets, but he had felt better in recent days. "I'm taking some vitamins," he said with a dry smile.... Forward Lamar Odom sat out his fifth game because of a slight labrum tear and bruised rotator cuff in his left shoulder.