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Five Lakers face uncertain futures

Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, Adam Morrison, DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell are in the final year of their contract deals. Fisher says he's not worried; the others aren't as confident.

October 20, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

It was a prevalent theme last season, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza facing an uncertain future with the Lakers while in the last year of their contracts.

Odom stayed, Ariza left for Houston, and what will become of this year's Lakers in the last year of their deals?

It's a party of five -- Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, Adam Morrison, DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell -- with only one starter among them.

Fisher, who makes $5 million this season, will be 36 a year from now. He has already said he wants to keep playing after this season, though he's not stressing out about it.

"I'm kind of excited about it this time around," he said. "I think I'm in a more powerful position in terms of being in a contract year because I'm confident in what my choices are. I'm confident in my ability to keep playing for as long as I want to because of the way I prepare and train and my value to the team.

"I'm comfortable that if a higher power took basketball away from me for whatever reason, I'm going to be successful in other areas the rest of my life. So there's no fear of next year for me."

Farmar and Morrison, however, are different stories. They're both young -- Farmar will be 23 next month, Morrison is 25 -- and don't have the established history of Fisher, much less his renowned playoff portfolio.

Morrison is fighting for time in a crowded small-forward position, and Farmar is trying to fend off Shannon Brown as Fisher's backup at point guard.

The Lakers have the option of giving Morrison and Farmar contract extensions before the regular season begins next Tuesday, but it is not expected to happen, making them restricted free agents next July. Farmar will make $1.9 million this season and Morrison will make $5.2 million in the last year of the rookie contract for the third pick in the 2006 draft.

"There's pressure on your mind a lot," Morrison said. "You wonder if you're going to have a chance to provide, even though we get paid very, very well. But this is our job."

Powell and Mbenga are under contract for $959,000 each. Their return is on a year-by-year basis and will be contingent upon how they play as backups this season.

Odom has some words of advice for all five of his teammates.

For the most part, Odom managed to keep the money off his mind last season, leaving that for an excruciatingly long negotiation process last July.

He said it shouldn't be a problem "in a situation like this one" for his teammates to keep their mind-set in the present, not the future. "It's probably tougher when you're on a bad team with bad chemistry, guys just playing for stats, things like that," Odom said. "You're fortunate to be in a contract year on a winning team. It makes a big difference."


Artest unplugged

Ron Artest definitely says what he's thinking, and Monday was no different.

"Anybody who has studied the history of basketball, this has got to be probably one of the best teams put together," he said of the Lakers. "We've got to take advantage of that."

Artest seemed intrigued by the premise of playing defense alongside Kobe Bryant.

"With me and him on the wings, it's going to be tough [for opponents]," Artest said. "There's a lot of other teams that's going to do what their coach asks them to do -- they're going to play hard -- but I don't know if there's people as naturally gifted defensively as me on that wing. And Kobe's a naturally gifted defender."


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