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What's big idea?

Bynum's return in the middle will be welcomed, of course, but a major turnover of the roster seems unlikely.

June 19, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Now what?

Somewhere between a staggering 131-92 loss to Boston and the start of training camp in early October, the Lakers will reconfigure their roster, though it doesn't figure to be drastic or franchise-shifting.

Kobe Bryant will still be here in the fall, as will Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, but there are some decisions to make, none of which will be solved in next Thursday's NBA draft (the Lakers have only a second-round pick, 58th overall).

Coach Phil Jackson referred to any forthcoming changes as "incremental," not sweeping, which makes sense for a team that was two victories from a championship despite going five months without its most intimidating defensive presence.

The main issues awaiting the Lakers are Bynum's contract extension and Lamar Odom's future with the team.

The Lakers must also decide whether to re-sign Sasha Vujacic and Ronny Turiaf, who become restricted free agents July 1, giving the Lakers the right to match any offer sheet Vujacic or Turiaf sign with another team.

Bynum, 20, will be in the last season of a four-year rookie contract but can sign a five-year extension before Oct. 31 that keeps him under contract through 2013-14, a total of six seasons.

He has not played since Jan. 13 and is not expected to begin jogging for two more weeks after having cartilage debris removed from his left knee and rough spots on the underside of his kneecap smoothed out in a May 21 procedure.

The Lakers are expected to wait and see how Bynum looks in training camp before signing him to an extension. If they don't sign him by the end of October, he becomes a restricted free agent in July 2009, though the Lakers are then able to match any offer sheet he signs with another team.

Bynum was on the verge of a breakout season, averaging 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds a game, numbers aided by six dominant games in January in which he averaged 17.3 points and 12.2 rebounds before getting hurt by coming down on Odom's left foot while reaching back for a rebound.

In an interview toward the end of the regular season, Bynum said he wanted to stay with the team and did not necessarily expect a maximum contract extension of about $80 million. "I just want to be a Laker," he said. "As long as they treat me right, it doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be max [money] for me. I just want to be able to live comfortably and take care of my family."

Odom, 28, has fewer options.

He will be in the last year of a contract that pays him $14.1 million next season and is essentially a more palatable version of Kwame Brown, an expiring contract who can actually catch an entry pass and fill a stat sheet, though not always consistently.

Odom and Gasol showed high-level cohesion over the last two months of the regular season and through most of the playoffs but were soundly outplayed by the Celtics' frontcourt in the Finals.

Odom said he wanted to "get better this summer individually" and also hoped the Lakers came back with a feistier attitude next season.

"Get stronger, get nastier," he said. "It's called a disposition, just to carry yourself a certain way throughout the game. I think [Boston] did a better job of that, playing a certain way for a longer period of time."

If the Lakers trade Odom, they could bring in more consistent outside shooting, especially if they lose Vujacic to free agency. Memphis swingman Mike Miller would be a snug fit for the offense, though the Grizzlies are probably done dealing with the Lakers after being publicly ridiculed for trading Gasol to them in February.

The Lakers could also use a defensive presence in the frontcourt other than Bynum, which Jackson has referred to from time to time.

"The only missing part that I've always consistently said is we need a head-banger, we need a tough guy on this team," Jackson said after signing a two-year extension with the Lakers a month into this season.

On Tuesday, after the six-game ouster in the Finals became official, Jackson said the Lakers had to "get some players if we're going to come back and repeat, to have that kind of aggressiveness that we need."

Vujacic emerged as a dependable shooter halfway through the regular season and at times in the playoffs. He will draw more interest in the free-agent market than Turiaf.

Jason Kapono, a veteran shooter who is somewhat comparable to Vujacic in ability, signed a four-year, $24-million contract last summer with Toronto. The Lakers might part with that kind of money to keep Vujacic, who sounded as if he wanted to stay when asked about the Lakers' future.

"I think next year, especially with Andrew and the same group, we won't be short two games like we were this year, I can guarantee you that," he said. "Personally, I'm going to work myself really hard in the gym all summer. We want to win it."

Vujacic, 24, made $1.8 million this season. Turiaf, 25, earned a relatively low $770,610.

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