A Lak­ers tale of woo

Af­ter draft­ing Rus­sell, a key piece in planned makeover, they make pitch tonight for an even big­ger prize, Aldridge

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike Bres­na­han

The Lak­ers of­fi­cially in­tro­duced their latest prize to lo­cal re­porters Mon­day. They hope to add another one this week.

Not long af­ter point guard D’An­gelo Rus­sell held up his jersey ( he’ll wear No. 1) and grinned for the cam­eras, the Lak­ers turned their at­ten­tion to the start of free agency Tues­day night.

They plan to meet with power for­ward LaMar­cus Aldridge at the of­fi­cial 9: 01 p. m. Pa­cific start time and hope to woo him with a four- year, $ 80- mil­lion deal. Aldridge has a vet­eran’s un­der­stand­ing of the game — he’ll turn 30 in two weeks — and rep­re­sents what the Lak­ers have lacked with­out Pau Ga­sol, a scor­ing pres­ence in the post with nice mid- range touch.

Aldridge is com­ing off a sea­son in which he av­er­aged a ca­reer- high 23.4 points and added 10.2 re­bounds per game for Port­land while mak­ing the All- Star team for the fourth con­sec­u­tive sea­son, no easy task in the Western Con­fer­ence.

Of great im­por­tance to the Lak­ers, he does not nec­es­sar­ily crave the se­cu­rity of a five- year deal that only the Trail Blaz­ers can of­fer him. He is ex­pected to also lis­ten to pitches from the San An­to­nio Spurs and Dal- las Mav­er­icks, two of his home- state teams.

Aldridge could make as much as $ 18.8 mil­lion next sea­son and would al­most cer­tainly ask for all of it since, if he left Port­land, he would be for­go­ing that fifth year of salary. The Lak­ers have $ 23 mil­lion to spend on free agents for next sea­son, mean­ing Aldridge would be their main sign­ing by far if he came to terms with them.

The Lak­ers also are sched­uled to meet with Clip­pers cen­ter DeAn­dre Jor­dan on Wed­nes­day, though this one might be a long­shot. Jor­dan is ex­pected to sit down with the New York Knicks, as well as Dal­las and the Clip­pers, the co- fa­vorites to sign him.

“We’re go­ing to try and be as ag­gres­sive as we pos­si­bly can be,” Lak­ers Gen­eral Man­ager Mitch Kupchak said Mon­day. “We’ll try to se­cure a cou­ple play­ers

to make this team more com­pet­i­tive next year.”

It is un­clear if the Lak­ers will meet in per­son with Kevin Love, who is widely ex­pected to re­turn to the Cleve­land Cava­liers for a f ive- year deal. The Lak­ers had in­ter­est in guard Go­ran Dragic but drafted Rus­sell in­stead of Duke cen­ter Jahlil Okafor and now des­per­ately need front­court help. Re­gard­less, Dragic is ex­pected to re­turn to the Mi­ami Heat.

The Lak­ers will not get a meet­ing with free- agent cen­ter Marc Ga­sol be­cause of the un­easy fi­nal few years his brother, Pau, spent with them. Pau Ga­sol left for less money with the Chicago Bulls last July af­ter years of trade pos­si­bil­i­ties dogged him dur­ing his Lak­ers days, in­clud­ing the David Stern­ve­toed deal in­volv­ing Chris Paul in De­cem­ber 2011.

Mean­while, the Lak­ers had their three draft picks meet the media at the team’s El Se­gundo train­ing fa­cil­ity.

Rus­sell, 19, con­tin­ued to pay homage to Kobe Bryant — “I just told him I’m a sponge. What­ever he’s will­ing to teach me, I’m will­ing to learn” — and ea­gerly en­vi­sioned a back­court with promis­ing 23- year- old Jor­dan Clark­son.

“I know he’s an ex­plo­sive guard,” Rus­sell said. “He’s big­ger than most guards. He’s a guy that I could def­i­nitely play with.”

If noth­ing else, the Lak­ers will have a great sum­mer- league team in two weeks in Las Ve­gas af­ter suf­fer­ing the worst sea­son ( 2161) in team history. Clark­son, Rus­sell and Julius Ran­dle will all play.

The Lak­ers’ other firstround pick, Wy­oming power for­ward Larry Nance Jr., found him­self in im­me­di­ate hot wa­ter af­ter be­ing se- lected 27th over­all.

He wrote an anti- Bryant tweet three years ago — “Gee I sure hope Kobe can keep his hands to him­self in Den­ver again. # rapist” — and was re­minded of it af­ter the Lak­ers took him Thurs­day.

“About 24 hours went past, I felt like I was go­ing to throw up. Sick to my stom­ach,” Nance said Mon­day. “I was just em­bar­rassed in my­self. I felt so bad about what I had said. I just wanted to apol­o­gize right away.”

Bryant was ar­rested in July 2003 on sus­pi­cion of sex­ual as­sault in Colorado, although crim­i­nal charges were dropped and a civil law­suit was set­tled out of court.

Nance said he was “ter­ri­fied” while tak­ing some time to write an apolo­getic text to Bryant last week, he said. Bryant re­sponded to him.

“Once I got the ‘ Hey, you’re a kid. We’ve all said and done things we’ve re­gret­ted. It’s wa­ter un­der the bridge. Welcome to the fam­ily,’ I im­me­di­ately felt my stom­ach re­lease. There was a big knot,” Nance said.

The Lak­ers’ other pick, Stan­ford small for­ward An­thony Brown, said he was a fan while grow­ing up in the South­land and at­tend­ing Foun­tain Val­ley High.

“I can re­mem­ber watch­ing the games on KCAL- 9,” said Brown, se­lected 34th over­all and the only one of the three draft picks with­out a guar­an­teed con­tract. “I can hon­estly say that there comes a lot of pride with a Lak­ers jersey, and I’m def­i­nitely ready to rep­re­sent in the right way.”

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

MEET­ING THE PRESS in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia for the f irst time, D’An­gelo Rus­sell ex­uded con­fi­dence at the Lak­ers’ El Se­gundo head­quar­ters. The No. 2 over­all draft pick will wear jersey No. 1.

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