Like so many of the Lakers, Tarik Black is auditioning for a future job in the final few weeks of a stranded season.
The rookie forward-center had his fourth double-double of the season Thursday against the Utah Jazz, his latest attempt to persuade the Lakers to keep him. He has a nonguaranteed salary of about $850,000 next season.
Black plays hard, has shown toughness and makes a relatively small salary in a league in which the annual average is about $5.5 million. A no-brainer for the Lakers to bring him back at least as a reserve, no?
Black doesn't think so.
"I learned my lesson this year," he said Friday. "I was doing very well in Houston. I had one or two double-doubles there, I was backing up Dwight [Howard], started 12 games and we actually won, like, a ridiculous amount."
Life was looking up for the undrafted player out of Kansas.
"Every article was the same — 'Tarik Black is a keeper, a surprise because nobody drafted him,'" he said. "Then a situation popped up where a star free agent came up and I ended up getting waived. It's why I tend not to think about tomorrow."
Indeed, the Rockets cut Black to make room for Josh Smith after he was unexpectedly waived by Detroit in December. The Lakers put in a claim for Black and were awarded him because their record was so poor at the time.
Black doesn't hold any ill will toward the Rockets, he says.
Sticking with his glass-half-full outlook, he says he loves playing for the Lakers despite their shoddy record (17-50, fourth worst in the NBA).
He has been in and out of the starting lineup, most recently getting 13 points and 10 rebounds against Utah in 30 minutes as a starter.
"I'm very happy with the way I've been playing," he said. "I love this organization. I want to stay with the Lakers. But if I end up somewhere else, I'll just have to work hard there as well.
Black is one of many Lakers facing future uncertainty.
Jordan Clarkson and Robert Sacre are in similar nonguaranteed situations as Black, though Clarkson has played beyond expectations and will undoubtedly be brought back.