The Lakers finally will get some new players tonight, although not necessarily the big-name ones their fans hoped to see.
Wedged between Kobe Bryant trade demands and Kevin Garnett trade scenarios, the Lakers were quietly running dozens of amateur players in and out of their El Segundo facility in preparation for tonight's NBA draft.
Unlike two years ago, when the Lakers were eagerly mulling what to do with the 10th pick, this year's draft has crept up on Lakers' followers because, well, a few other things are on their minds these days.
There's also the fact that the Lakers don't pick until the 19th selection. They also have two second-round picks, 40th and 48th, but it might be a stretch to say any of their selections will yield a player with immediate influence, even though this year's draft is deep.
The Lakers wouldn't mind peddling their first-round selection -- General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Coach Phil Jackson have stated how young the team has been the last couple of seasons -- but their pick hasn't met as much interest as the fifth pick (Boston) or the ninth pick (Chicago), both of which have been widely shopped.
"Right now, we're preparing to make all three picks," Kupchak said.
With their first-round selection, the Lakers probably will choose among a crowd of players including Colorado State forward Jason Smith (6 foot 10 3/4 ), Duke forward Josh McRoberts (6-8 3/4 ), Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey (6-3 3/4 ) or Italian guard Marco Belinelli (6-5).
Kupchak said last week that the team doesn't want another young guard, but the Lakers might find Stuckey or Belinelli too tempting to pass up.
The second-round pick the Lakers acquired from Charlotte two years ago for Jumaine Jones looked to be a very good one until the Bobcats went on a late-season run.
"Due to Bernie Bickerstaff's great coaching the last six weeks of the season, our second-round pick with Charlotte went from 32 or 33 to 40," Kupchak said dryly.
Kupchak said the Lakers would prefer not to have a 15-man roster like last season, which makes it highly unlikely that both second-round picks make the team. The Lakers plan to carry 14 players, keeping a roster spot open in case a player gets cut, such as Chris Webber and Eddie Jones last season.
The Lakers have mined only one full-time starter, Luke Walton, from their last six drafts, although the jury is still out on 19-year-old Andrew Bynum.
Their recent picks include Jordan Farmar (26th overall, 2006), Ronny Turiaf (37th, 2005), Sasha Vujacic (27th, 2004), Brian Cook (24th, 2003) and Mark Madsen (29th, 2000). Walton was the 32nd selection in 2003.
The Lakers reportedly are going beyond U.S. borders in their search for a backcourt starter.
With Smush Parker out the door and Farmar having played only one NBA season, the Lakers have offered a multi-year contract to 30-year-old guard Theodoros Papaloukas, according to Eleftheros Tipos, a newspaper in Greece. The report said Papaloukas had confirmed the offer and was pondering it among a handful from NBA teams. Lakers officials declined to comment.
Papaloukas, a Greek native who is listed at 6 feet 7, was the Euroleague player of the year last season with CSKA Moscow, and is widely thought to be the best point guard in Europe.
He signed a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow in June 2006, a contract that could require a substantial buy-out price. The Lakers probably would have to use most or all of their mid-level exception -- five years and about $30 million -- to sign him. The mid-level exception is given to teams that are over the salary cap and can be divvied up to sign more than one free agent.
Papaloukas had 12 assists to lead Greece to an upset of the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2006 world championships. He had 10 points and nine assists for CSKA Moscow in a 94-75 exhibition victory over the Clippers last October, an effort that prompted Clippers forward Elton Brand to tell the Associated Press that he "definitely [had] flashbacks of Papaloukas," from the U.S. semifinal loss.
There have been no talks between the Lakers and Indiana Pacers in recent days, suggesting that trade talks for Pacers forward-center Jermaine O'Neal remain stalled. Furthermore, there were no conversations of consequence Wednesday between the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves regarding Kevin Garnett.
Center Kwame Brown will be back in time for training camp after undergoing shoulder surgery Wednesday, a Lakers spokesman said.
Brown had a bursa sac removed, as well as scar tissue and a bone spur from his right shoulder. He had reconstructive surgery on his left ankle last month.