Archive for Friday, June 22, 2001

Decision time next for champion Lakers

June 22, 2001


— Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Rick Fox aren't going anywhere.

But the futures of free agents Horace Grant, Ron Harper and the volatile Isaiah Rider are up in the air as Los Angeles Lakers' management shapes the roster for a run at a third straight NBA championship.

The Lakers don't have any selections in next week's draft. Vancouver has their first-round pick because of a trade with New York, and the Lakers traded a second-round pick to San Antonio.

General manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday that even without a selection, the Lakers scouted the pre-draft camps in anticipation of calls on draft day as picks become available.

Three months ago, the Lakers were in need of another young guard to play alongside Bryant. However, Fisher's postseason play, especially his three-point shooting, solidified his spot in the starting lineup.

"I think he's our starter," Kupchak said.

One of the biggest decisions management faces is whether to bring back oldsters Grant, Harper and Brian Shaw. Grant turns 36 in July and Harper will be 38 in January. Both are free agents and want to return.

Shaw is 34 and has another year on his contract, which isn't guaranteed until December.

Kupchak said Grant could provide frontcourt help, but he indicated his salary would figure into whether he's retained.

Kupchak expressed doubt whether Harper has another season in him because of his age and bad knees.

After repeated tardiness and errant behavior during the regular season, Rider was left off the playoff roster, although he continued practicing with the team. He recently told Kupchak and coach Phil Jackson that he wants to return and offered to play on the Lakers' summer league team.

"We haven't closed the door," Kupchak said. "There's a twinkle in Phil's eye when we talk about Isaiah. Phil doesn't give up on players, and I think he likes the challenge and he recognizes something there that is redeeming in value."

Kupchak believes Rider will attract free agent offers, and said Rider showed a greater aptitude with the triangle offense in the final six weeks of practice than he had all season.

At the same time, Kupchak said, "I don't think we can say it's a player that we're going to mark down and be able to count on next year."

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