Divac returning to the Lakers
11:46 PM PDT on Sunday, July 18, 2004
By BRODERICK TURNER / The Press-Enterprise
Again, it came down to the Lakers and Clippers for the services of a player, and once again the Clippers lost to the Lakers.
Vlade Divac has decided to return to the Lakers, the same team that drafted him in 1989 with the 26th pick in the first round, sources said late Sunday night.
Kobe Bryant was also deciding between the Lakers and Clippers and chose Thursday to remain a Laker.
The Clippers had more money to offer, but sources said Divac wanted to be a Laker.
Divac will get the mid-level exception of about $5 million, and Laker team sources said they might be willing to give the 36-year-old free-agent center a two-year deal.
The Clippers, after being shunned by Bryant, still have about $14 million to spend and were able to offer Divac millions more.
Divac, who spent the past six seasons in Sacramento, said the Kings offered him just $2.5 million.
"It's a bad feeling to make a decision that you don't want to make," Divac, who has kept his home in Los Angeles, told the Sacramento Bee on Sunday. "In the last couple of days, I've been coming to grips that I really might have to leave. But (the Kings) are looking at it from the business side, and I have to do that, too."
With Divac able to play center, Brian Grant can move from center to his natural position of power forward, and Lamar Odom can move to his best position of small forward.
The signing of Divac could help the Lakers' chances of getting Karl Malone to return. Malone, who had surgery on his right knee, said he will take most of the summer to make a decision on retiring or playing again.
The San Antonio Spurs
have called Malone repeatedly, and the Miami Heat also is interested.
Divac probably will play 20 to 25 minutes per game, giving the Lakers a 7-foot-1 presence in the middle.
He spent his first seven seasons with the Lakers until he was traded in 1996 to Charlotte for the rights to Bryant.
It also opened room for the Lakers to sign a free-agent center by the name of Shaquille O'Neal, who was traded away Wednesday to Miami for Grant, Odom, Caron Butler and a first-round draft pick.
The Lakers are looking for a fifth guard, but because they are over the salary cap, they are having a hard time filling that void.
They like Mike James, a reserve with the NBA champion Pistons, but he wants more money than the Lakers can offer.
All the Lakers can give James is the minimum salary a four-year player gets, which starts at about $745,000.
James made $638,000 last season.
Keyon Dooling, a restricted free-agent guard with the Clippers, has expressed interest in the Lakers, but they aren't looking in his direction.
Sources said the Clippers plan this week to match the six-year, $45 million offer guard Quentin Richardson
got from the Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers also are still talking with Slava Medvedenko about returning.