Danilo Pinnock slips his 6-foot-5 body into a bed in a lonely El Segundo hotel room. He flips on the television and fills the night watching the movie "Titanic."
When he is hungry, Pinnock opens the refrigerator and pulls out a fried chicken TV dinner he bought at Ralphs. It's not rib-eye, but it will settle his growling stomach.
When he is thirsty, Pinnock cracks open a Gatorade. He gets them from the Lakers' practice facility and stockpiles them. His $100 per diem goes only so far.
On June 28, Pinnock was selected late in the second round of the NBA draft and became a professional basketball player. So why is he so frugal?
As a second-rounder, the 58th pick overall, Pinnock does not have a guaranteed contract, unlike the 30 first-round selections. So over the next few months, Pinnock will try to impress the Lakers coaches, hope he is invited to fall training camp and then try to make the roster and secure a contract for the regular season.
"It's a tough position to be in," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. "Making the NBA roster when you're drafted in the late second round or as a free agent, it's a long road."
Indeed, Pinnock and the rest of the second-round selections face long odds to earn roster spots. Because Pinnock is a second-round pick, the Lakers invited him to play on their team in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach.
Other second-round picks are showcasing their skills in similar summer leagues in Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. Typically, half of the second-round picks fail to make an NBA team, and those players usually end up toiling in the National Basketball Developmental League, or search for a contract overseas. Ever heard of DeJuan Wheat? Or John Celestand? Both were Lakers second-round picks in the last decade. Both dropped from NBA rosters without much notice.
For a recent summer league game, Pinnock took the court at 3 p.m. as a member of the Lakers, donning a faded yellow jersey instead of a crisp one. He shared the court with players named Kasib and Nile, not Lamar and Kobe. Each game he tries to be noticed by scouts and coaches, and hopes that he can realize the thrill of \o7playing\f7 in the NBA, and not just being drafted \o7into \f7it.
"There's millions of people out there dying to be in my position," said Pinnock, a guard from George Washington. "They'd sell their soul to the devil to trade places with me. I'm loving it."
Moments after a recent summer league game, a crowd swells around the Lakers' locker room. Out walks Andrew Bynum, the Lakers' 7-foot, first-round draft pick from a year ago. He's surrounded by the media. Lights from the cameras illuminate his face.
Meanwhile, Pinnock slips out of the locker room unnoticed until a fan stops and asks for his autograph. \o7Danilo Pinnock #2\f7, he signs.
On the Lakers' summer team, Pinnock wears No. 25. He was halfway to the door when the fan noticed, and summoned him back. He returned and added a 5 to his signature. Pinnock smiled.
It's an honest mistake; Pinnock wore No. 2 as a star guard at George Washington. Last season, his junior year, he led them to a 27-3 record and into the second round of the NCAA tournament. Although Pinnock had one more year of eligibility, his value had reached its limit, he figured.
"No way we'd be 27-3 again," he said, considering the NCAA season.
Pinnock made himself available for the draft initially without signing with an agent, thus keeping open his option of returning to school. But in the back of his mind, Pinnock knew he would not play at George Washington again.
When he flew to Orlando for the pre-draft camp, he left behind in Georgia his fiancee, whom he will wait to marry until he has stability in his life, and two children (Danilo III, 2, and Jaylen, 3 weeks). He needed to test his luck in the draft and try to get a contract for them, he said.
"They are my motivation," said Pinnock, who keeps their pictures in his hotel room.
During one summer league game last week, the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks, the team that drafted Pinnock, then shipped him to the Lakers for a 2007 second-round pick.
Five minutes into the game, Pinnock found himself on a two-on-one fastbreak, running slightly ahead of his Lakers teammate who pushed the ball toward the basket. Pinnock pointed slightly to the sky, hoping for an alley-oop attempt.
He caught the ball and slammed it in, hanging on the rim for effect. Suddenly, the basket collapsed, and the pneumatic foundation crumpled like a praying mantis in the crouched position. The crowd yelped in delight. Pinnock flashed a smile, then flexed like a bodybuilder.
"I've never seen that happen before," said Lakers summer league coach Kurt Rambis.
The showmanship, although fun to watch, might not land him on the Lakers' roster.
On Wednesday, the team signed veteran free-agent guard Shammond Williams, who has been on six NBA teams, to a guaranteed $1.75-million contact. That means the Lakers have 15 players with guaranteed contracts, the league maximum.
Pinnock said that if he doesn't get an NBA contract, he wants to play overseas where he will make enough money to support his family.
Still, he'll hold out hope for a miracle, a trade, or anything to open a roster spot that allows him to stay in Los Angeles as an NBA player and a member of the Lakers.
"This is where I want to be," Pinnock said.
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Second-round picks by the Lakers since 2001 who were on the 2005-06 roster:
Luke Walton, forward
* 32nd overall in 2003 (Arizona).
* Averaged 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in seven playoff games.
Ronny Turiaf, forward
* 37th overall in 2005 (Gonzaga).
* Played in 23 regular-season games and three playoff games.
Von Wafer, guard
* 39th overall in 2005 (Florida State).
* Averaged 4.6 minutes in 16 games.
Sources: Lakers, NBA.com