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After wait, Crawford is choice

June 27, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

It was the Lakers' turn, finally, 4 hours and 20 minutes into the NBA draft.

It took a while to get there, the Lakers sitting out the first round because they sent the 28th pick to Memphis as part of the Pau Gasol trade, but they eventually selected Kentucky guard Joe Crawford with the 58th pick Thursday.

Crawford, 6 feet 4, averaged 17.9 points a game and shot 36.4% from three-point range in his senior season at Kentucky. Like every second-round pick, he does not get a guaranteed contract.

"We had him projected to be drafted a lot higher than 58," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. "He comes from a top-rate basketball program, used to playing in big games. He had a great career."

Kupchak wouldn't specify where Crawford sat on the Lakers' draft board, but he indicated it was around No. 35 in the 60-player draft. If Crawford made the roster next season, he would be a shooting guard who could also handle the ball.

Late second-round picks rarely make an impact in the NBA, though there are some exceptions: San Antonio forward Manu Ginobili was the 57th pick in 1999 and Houston forward Luis Scola was 56th in 2002.

"It goes without saying statistically that once three-quarters of the draft goes by, when you get to be about 45 or so, those players struggle to make a roster," Kupchak said. "If they make a roster, it's likely that they won't contribute much, at least not initially."

Crawford had memorable moments at Kentucky, including a 35-point outburst in March in a first-round NCAA tournament loss against Marquette, though he didn't show great speed and had only 17 steals in 30 games last season.

Memphis, for the record, took freshman forward Donte Green from Syracuse with the pick they received from the Lakers.

The Lakers have had some relative success in the second round, taking Luke Walton with the 32nd pick in 2003 and Ronny Turiaf with the 37th pick in 2005. They are also keeping tabs on 6-foot-8 Chinese guard Sun Yue, whom they took last year with the 40th pick.

"We're very optimistic that we can get him on the roster next year," Kupchak said. "I'll contact his agent this week and have some initial discussions." The Lakers now move forward to free agency, which begins Monday at 9 p.m.

They are particularly interested in re-signing Sasha Vujacic, a restricted free agent.

"I intend to contact him at 9:01 on Monday night," Kupchak said.

The Lakers are also interested in re-signing Turiaf, a restricted free agent.


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