Lak­ers look­ing to land a big-name big man

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - MIKE BRES­NA­HAN ON THE LAK­ERS

This was sup­posed to be the warmup sum­mer, the one dur­ing which the train­ing wheels get slapped on and ev­ery­body prac­tices for the Real Sum­mer of Kevin (Du­rant, not Love).

The Lak­ers, though, have al­ready turned le­mons into some­thing sweet, mov­ing up in the draft de­spite the gnash­ing jaws of Steve Nash-shaped de­spair and grab­bing dy­namic point guard D’An­gelo Rus­sell sec­ond over­all.

All their fi­nan­cial eggs now go into the big-man bas­ket. They want to talk to LaMar­cus Aldridge, he wants to lis­ten, and if all goes well for both sides the four­time All-Star signs a fouryear, $80-mil­lion deal to be the Lak­ers’ power for­ward.

Free agency be­gins Tues­day and Aldridge turns 30 two weeks later, a mi­nor as­terisk for a player who av­er­aged a ca­reer-high 23.4 points last sea­son and also 10.2 re­bounds.

Port­land made it past the first round once in Aldridge’s nine years there, and though the Lak­ers are com­ing off their worst sea­son ever (21-61, ugh), you can bet they’d pitch him on a rapid re­vival.

Aldridge al­ready owns a home in Or­ange County, his ini­tials are tai­lor-made for the Lak­ers, and it just so hap­pens that his good plays were re­warded at Port­land home games by an au­dio snip­pet of Randy New­man’s “I Love L.A.”

The Lak­ers have enough money for only one big-name free agent, gath­er­ing about $23 mil­lion in spend­ing power af­ter de­clin­ing the $9-mil­lion op­tion on freeagent cen­ter-for­ward Jor­dan Hill in a cou­ple of days. Aldridge would make al­most $19 mil­lion next sea­son af­ter pulling down $16.3 mil­lion last sea­son.

The Lak­ers’ only big men go­ing into free agency are Tarik Black and Robert Sacre af­ter they pre­sum­ably make the lat­ter’s sub-$1mil­lion con­tract guar­an­teed by Tues­day’s dead­line.

They boxed them­selves into a big-man cor­ner by pass­ing on Duke cen­ter Jahlil Okafor to draft Rus­sell, putting the Ohio State point guard next to promis­ing Jor­dan Clark­son while set­ting up the Lak­ers’ back­court “for the next 10 years,” ac­cord­ing to a near-giddy team source.

Per­haps a quick shot of re­al­ity is needed.

The Lak­ers have had prob­lems get­ting free agents to take their money in re­cent years. Dwight Howard spurned them for less money in Hous­ton, Carmelo An­thony said thanks but no thanks, and Pau Ga­sol took less to go to Chicago.

The only big name they signed lately was Kobe Bryant, who ac­cepted a two-year, $48.5-mil­lion ex­ten­sion in 2013 be­fore re­turn­ing from a torn Achilles’ ten­don.

The Lak­ers need a Plan B if Aldridge says no. Two teams from his home state, San An­to­nio and Dal­las, will re­port­edly court him too.

It would take some per­sua­sion to get Clip­pers cen­ter DeAn­dre Jor­dan to take less money and leave L.A.’s more tal­ented team. The Lak­ers love his re­bound­ing and shot-block­ing, as do many teams, and Dal­las will also re­cruit him heav­ily.

It’s harder to fig­ure what to make of Love, who had an off year in Cleve­land and said in Fe­bru­ary there was not a sce­nario in which he’d play for the Lak­ers. He might meet with them next week even if it’s only a ploy to en­sure a max­i­mum of­fer from the Cava­liers, re­port­edly the fa­vorites to re­tain him.

Marc Ga­sol has no in­ter­est in the Lak­ers be­cause of the un­easy last few years his brother spent with them, ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion. Ver­sa­tile big man Greg Monroe, oft-in­jured Brook Lopez and his work­man­like brother, Robin, are other al­ter­na­tives at cen­ter.

If the Lak­ers strike out, they could try re-sign­ing Hill for less and chase swing­man Jimmy But­ler, who could ease into the hole va­cated soon by Bryant. The prob­lem is Chicago’s ex­pected ac­tion of match­ing any of­fer sheet the re­stricted free agent signs.

What­ever hap­pens, it’s sim­ple ta­ble-set­ting for a year from now. The Lak­ers will have dou­ble the fun when Bryant’s con­tract is off the books ($25 mil­lion next sea­son) and the salary cap jumps from $67 mil­lion to about $90 mil­lion with the NBA’s gi­gan­tic new TV deal.

Even if the Lak­ers sign a max free agent now, they’ll have more than enough to join the Du­rant free-for-all and add another big-name free agent too.

Their only play­ers cur­rently on the 2016-17 cap are Rus­sell, fel­low first-rounder Larry Nance Jr., Nick Young (re­mem­ber him?) and Julius Ran­dle, as­sum­ing they pick up his third-year op­tion. It adds up to only $15 mil­lion, though money must be ear­marked for Clark­son, who be­comes a re­stricted free agent af­ter only two sea­sons be­cause he was a sec­ond-round draft pick.

This sum­mer has al­ready been en­ter­tain­ing. The real show comes in a year.

Danny Moloshok As­so­ci­ated Press

THE LAK­ERS have their sights on for­ward LaMar­cus Aldridge.

David J. Phillip As­so­ci­ated Press

DeAN­DRE JOR­DAN would be tough to lure away from the Clip­pers, though teams will re­cruit him.

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