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LAKER-CLIPPER REPORT

Parker on Verge of Money-Back Guarantee

January 08, 2006|Mike Bresnahan and Jason Reid | Times Staff Writers

Laker guard Smush Parker is two days away from job security.

Parker, who signed a non-guaranteed contract during the off-season, can start counting on the rest of his $745,000 salary on Tuesday, at which point all non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season, as per league rules.

Parker was third on the Lakers in points (11.5) and minutes (32.8), and led the team with 54 three-pointers and 56 steals before Saturday's game against the Clippers.

Parker played for the Florida Flame of the Development League last season after being waived by the Detroit Pistons a year ago, almost to the day.

"I like my position a lot better now," he said. "I couldn't ask for anything more. I'm starting for the Los Angeles Lakers."

Parker, 24, needs to work on scoring consistency and his on-ball defense, but for now he's all but guaranteed for this season.

"He was looking for his home in the right system," Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. "And he's young, so he took a while to mature a little bit and to find his game. Hopefully he's found a home."

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Changing a team's style of play during a season would seem risky, but injuries have prompted the Clippers to take a chance.

Coach Mike Dunleavy, hoping to keep the Clippers in position for a Western Conference playoff berth while starting small forward Corey Maggette and backup center Zeljko Rebraca are sidelined indefinitely, has used a three-guard lineup in an attempt to defeat opponents with speed.

"Coming into this season, we knew that we weren't going to be overly deep," Dunleavy said. "We had guys playing in positions that we were very comfortable with them playing, but some of those guys are now being asked to play positions where they have to take it up a notch or two."

The Clippers lack size and depth with Maggette and Rebraca injured, so Dunleavy has changed the team's tempo, giving rookie guard Daniel Ewing a more prominent role. Ewing has played well as a starter, but the results of the team's new style have been mixed.

On Friday, the Sacramento Kings defeated the Clippers, 118-114, and shot 54.9% from the field.

The pace of the game was too fast for the Clippers, Dunleavy said, and the team continued to struggle with defensive rotations, especially against King point guard Mike Bibby and center Brad Miller, who scored 32 and 26 points, respectively.

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Yaroslav Korolev, the Clippers' rookie small forward who has been impressive in practice recently, could become a bigger factor the longer Maggette is sidelined.

"He's had some really good days in practice and he has a great feel for the game," Dunleavy said. "He's in the right place at the right time defensively ... he gets it."

The 6-foot-9 Korolev, who has played in eight games, handles the ball well and is a skilled passer, but at only 203 pounds lacks the strength to play individual defense against many of the players he would have to guard.

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Laker guard Aaron McKie said he was about a week away from returning from a quadriceps tendon injury that has sidelined him for 18 games.

McKie, averaging 0.3 of a point and 0.6 of an assist, still has a chance to salvage the season, Laker Coach Phil Jackson said.

"The big thing with Aaron is he's got to get healthy," he said. "That's a very unusual injury. ... He's got to have a really good recovery."

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If Wednesday passes without the Lakers signing Ronny Turiaf, and if Turiaf signs with a team in Spain as his agent said would happen, the Lakers still would retain Turiaf's rights indefinitely as long as they tender a qualifying offer every year.

Turiaf's agent said his client might sign a $700,000 contract with a Barcelona team. The Lakers could offer Turiaf the league minimum of $399,000, prorated to games played.

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