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Lakers stay on Garnett watch

Front office scrambles, but Timberwolves seek youth, better draft pick and don't like Odom's deal.

June 27, 2007|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

If Monday brought expectation and exhilaration to Lakers fans, Tuesday delivered silence.

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor met with team officials in Minneapolis and then left for a honeymoon in China without signing off on a deal to send Kevin Garnett to the Lakers for a package including Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, which put the Garnett-to-L.A. scenarios back where they were a week ago -- remote territory.

The buzz in the Lakers organization after owner Jerry Buss spoke with Taylor a few days ago was replaced by the fact that Kevin McHale's initial reaction to the trade proposal had carried over into Tuesday.

McHale, the Timberwolves' vice president of basketball operations, felt the Lakers don't possess a good enough pick in Thursday's draft (19th overall) or enough promising youth beyond Andrew Bynum to part with Garnett.

Furthermore, The Times has learned that the Timberwolves are not overly enamored with Odom's contract, which has two more years worth $27.4 million with no opt-out.

Garnett is due $22 million next season and he could opt out before making $23 million in 2008-09, which means the Timberwolves would be on the hook for more money with Odom than they would have been if Garnett had opted out next summer.

Still, the Lakers' front office is in motion, seeing what can be worked out in the hours leading up to Thursday's draft.

"We're trying to be as aggressive as we could be, which means a lot of phone calls are being made and a lot of phone calls are being received," said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, speaking generally about the state of business at the team's training facility in El Segundo. "It is very busy and I don't anticipate that changing until the draft is over."

The head-to-head dealing isn't necessarily dead between the Lakers and Timberwolves, but a third team would probably have to be pulled into the mix to supply the Timberwolves with another youthful piece and a better draft pick. The Atlanta Hawks, with the third and 11th picks in the draft, would be a logical place to start.

But if Monday was any indication when a four-team deal centered around Garnett broke apart, another multi-team trade scenario might be difficult for the Lakers to assemble before the draft.

Also adding pressure to strike a deal is a $6.75-million trade kicker in Garnett's contract that could push the issue the next few days.

If he is traded before July 1, the kicker money can be split over last season and next season, which would potentially lessen the luxury-tax impact by a team that acquires him. Beginning July 1, all $6.75 million would have to go toward next season's payroll, presenting more of a challenge for a team facing luxury-tax issues.

On July 1, the Lakers will be looking at a roster with only 10 players under contract for $58.4 million next season. However, that does not include money for draft picks, their own free agents -- Luke Walton and Chris Mihm -- and an estimated $5 million for the first year of a contract of a free agent signed via the mid-level exception.

The NBA's luxury tax kicked in at $65.4 million last season, with teams paying a dollar in taxes for every dollar they were over the threshold.

Beyond the Lakers and Timberwolves not initially connecting, a source close to the 10-time All-Star said Garnett has Pacific Division rival Phoenix higher than L.A. on a short list of preferred destinations.

"He definitely wouldn't mind getting alley-oops from Steve Nash," the source said.

*

Lakers center Kwame Brown is scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery this morning, his second operation since the season ended.

Brown had reconstructive ankle surgery last month and was expected to be out at least four months.

Brown, who has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, will have a bursa sac and scar tissue removed from his right shoulder. A timetable for his recovery will not be known until after the shoulder procedure, although he is still expected back in time for training camp in October.

The surgery will be performed in Los Angeles by Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

Brown sat out 41 games last season because of his shoulder and, more prominently, his left ankle.

--

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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