Lakers begin free agency by agreeing to four-year deal with Timofey Mozgov

The Lakers’ continual search for a big man led them to a backup center for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Still trying to find someone to replace Pau Gasol, the Lakers agreed to terms Thursday with Timofey Mozgov on a four-year, $64-million deal.

The Lakers moved quickly, reaching agreement with Mozgov within 45 minutes of the start of the free-agent period. He made $4.95 million last season.

The Lakers think they can get some quality minutes — and perhaps play too — out of Mozgov, who displayed a handful of memorable moments in a six-year NBA career but averaged only five minutes per game in the NBA Finals for the champion Cavaliers. He turns 30 in two weeks.

In last year’s NBA Finals, he averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds for a decimated Cavaliers team. He was slowed by off-season knee surgery, reportedly having a cyst removed, and eventually lost his starting job to Tristan Thompson.

Current Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw was Mozgov’s head coach for about 11/2 seasons with the Denver Nuggets, during which time Mozgov averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots.

The Lakers were intrigued by Hassan Whiteside’s shot-blocking skills for Miami but not overly enthused about offering the erratic 7-footer a large contract. Whiteside, for his part, was apparently similarly unenthused about joining the Lakers and did not schedule a meeting with them.

The Lakers never formally contacted Atlanta’s Al Horford, keying on Mozgov for what they considered a less-expensive option down low.

The Mozgov deal leaves the Lakers with about $40 million to spend toward next season’s payroll.

The Lakers are also highly interested in Nicolas Batum, 27, a versatile player who can be used at small forward or shooting guard in their lineup.

He put up well-rounded numbers in his only season in Charlotte after seven in Portland, averaging 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

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The Lakers made qualifying offers to three players Thursday, officially making them restricted free agents: guards Jordan Clarkson and Marcelo Huertas, and center Tarik Black.

The Lakers want to keep Clarkson and plan to match if he signs an offer sheet with another team.

Clarkson, 24, can also merely accept his one-year qualifying deal of $2.7 million next season with the Lakers and become an unrestricted free agent in 2017.

Black, 24, fell out of the rotation under Coach Byron Scott and averaged 3.4 points and four rebounds in only 39 games.

Huertas, 33, showed some promise with crafty passing in his first NBA season after several years of international play. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.4 assists in limited playing time.

The qualifying offers for Black and Huertas were each about $1.1 million. Like Clarkson, they can sign an offer sheet with another team but the Lakers have the right to match.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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