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Lakers will have some decisions to make this off-season

Phil Jackson's situation is getting the most attention, but the coach isn't the only Laker in the last year of his contract. Six players, including ballhandling guards Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, also will be free agents.

May 31, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

Everybody knows Phil Jackson might be in his last season with the Lakers.

He's not the only one.

This could mark the final month in Lakers uniforms for half a dozen players, including the only three ballhandling guards on the roster: Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, all of whom will enter different stages of free agency July 1.

End-of-the-bench reserves DJ Mbenga, Josh Powell and Adam Morrison will also be free agents at that time.

The upcoming summer became slightly less frenetic after the Lakers signed Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant to three-year extensions during the season, but there will still be work to do, win or lose against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

It starts with the well-documented decision facing Jackson, who has repeatedly said he would not begin pondering his future until after the playoffs, and it continues with the fact that almost half the roster is in its last contract year, a team theme since the playoffs began.

"There's going to be a lot of stuff going on this summer," Farmar said. "We've all talked about it, especially in the beginning of the playoffs. This may be a lot of people's last month with the team. We definitely made that a point to be aware of that, just in case that is the situation. Everybody has to put their all into it and go out on the right note."

Fisher, 35, makes $5 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent, leaving him free to go wherever he wants. He will be hard-pressed to make that much money again, given his age and accrued mileage in a 14-year career, though he has had a notable presence in the playoffs, including a 22-point effort in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Suns.

He has been a steadying influence on and off the court, making some Lakers fans wonder how they survived two seasons with Smush Parker as the main ballhandling guard. But will this be Fisher's last June with the Lakers?

"I've obviously thought that it's the last year of my contract, but I haven't gone too deep in regards to, 'Ah, man, I've just got to savor every last thing that happens,' " Fisher said Monday. "No tears yet. Hopefully, only tears of joy in a few weeks and then obviously I'll have to think about a lot of things."

Farmar, 23, makes $1.9 million this season and will be a restricted free agent, the Lakers able to match any offer sheet he signs. His numbers are down from career-high levels two seasons ago, a direct effect of Fisher's rejoining the team in 2007 and a main reason why Farmar says he hopes for more playing time in his near future.

"If we commit to find something where I could be the guy, that's what I really want for the summertime," Farmar said. "But right now that doesn't matter. We have four games to win here."

Brown, 24, is expected to opt out of a contract paying him $2.1 million next season, given his improved play this season in a league where the average salary is $5.9 million.

He averaged a career-high 8.1 points during the regular season and started seven games, but there's no guarantee he'll be back even though the Lakers like the vertically unchallenged leaper.

The Lakers have what are called his "Early Bird rights," meaning they can pay him up to about $5.9 million in the first year of a new contract.

"I've definitely reflected on the year and a half that I've been here," Brown said. "I love it here. But right now it's championship time, time to handle [on-court] business."

Morrison makes $5.3 million this season and will be a restricted free agent, though the Lakers aren't expected to re-sign him. Mbenga ($959,000) and Powell ($959,000) are unrestricted free agents at the tail end of the Lakers' list of things to do this off-season.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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