Lakers Trade a No. 1 to Find a No. 2 : L.A. Gets Mychal Thompson in Exchange for Picks, Players

Times Staff Writer

Laker General Manager Jerry West wanted Mychal Thompson so badly, he was willing to play a $500,000 game of golf against San Antonio Spur owner Angelo Drossos.

That’s how much money Drossos at one point had said he wanted the Lakers to kick in for Thompson. West suggested--kiddingly he says now--that they play golf for the money.

In the end, West--who is a 2 handicapper--didn’t have to reach for his 9-iron to complete the deal. On Friday, after more than a month of negotiations, the Lakers finally acquired Thompson, the big man they had coveted as a backup for--and short-term successor to--Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, from the Spurs.

“Mychal Thompson is more than a role player,” Laker Coach Pat Riley said. “He’s a front-line player. He’s a shooter who can fit right into the low-post offense we run for Kareem.

“He’s also an excellent defensive player, he’s very strong and smart and a fine passer. He’s not a one-dimensional player.


“But any talk that this (trade) is going to guarantee something . . . people are making a big mistake.”

To get him, the Lakers sent their No. 1 draft pick this season, their No. 2 pick in 1990, two reserves--Frank Brickowski and Petur Gudmundsson--and an undisclosed amount of cash to the Spurs.

Thompson, who was the first player taken in the 1978 draft, is expected to arrive here late tonight and there’s a chance he will be in uniform for Sunday’s game with the Boston Celtics.

How excited are the Lakers at the addition of Thompson? When team publicist Josh Rosenfeld requested Thompson’s statistics from the Spurs, he asked for Thompson’s ring size.

“From a fan’s perspective, this gives them something else to hang their hopes on,” West said. “And it gives us a versatile player who gives us some scoring inside from the bench.

“He’s a smart player, strong, he can run the floor and catch the ball and score inside.”

Thompson, 32, played seven seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers before being traded to the Spurs last June. He also sat out one season--1979-80 with a broken left leg.

Indiana Coach Jack Ramsay, who was Thompson’s coach in Portland, said the Lakers had helped themselves considerably.

“He’s a good defender against (Boston’s) Kevin McHale,” Ramsay said, “and for that reason alone it’s important.

“I don’t think they needed anyone to score more. What they needed was someone to give backup minutes to Kareem.”

He averaged 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds a game with the Trail Blazers, numbers that he did not approach with the Spurs, who primarily used him as a backup to Artis Gilmore.

In 49 games with San Antonio, Thompson averaged 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. He, too, had heard the rumors that he was bound for Los Angeles, a deal he said Friday was overdue--by about nine years.

“It’s like a dream come true . . . only it happened nine years later than I hoped for,” said Thompson, who learned of the trade when he arrived at the HemisFair Arena before Friday night’s game with the Clippers.

“When I was in college (University of Minnesota), I always dreamed of playing with the Lakers.”

Thompson, who is 6-10 and 235 pounds, said it wouldn’t take long for him to get acclimated.

“Give me a game,” he said in a conference call with L.A. reporters. “I’ve always been a quick learner. I pride myself in being a student of the game.”

How much did the Lakers give up? A low first-round pick in what will be the worst draft in years, according to most observers, and a No. 2 three years away. Also, Brickowski, who obviously was not the answer as Abdul-Jabbar’s fill-in, and the 7-2 Gudmundsson, who might have been until undergoing back surgery in November.

“We’re committed to making our team younger,” San Antonio General Manager Bob Bass said in a radio interview. “Right now, the Lakers look like they got the better of the deal.

“I’m sure (Thompson) will help the Lakers. He’ll probably fit right in with that team.”

He’ll be nice to have around, too, when Abdul-Jabbar--who will be 40 in April--retires.

“He’ll buy us some time,” West said.

Abdul-Jabbar was cautious in his assessment of the trade.

“I’m hoping he’s going to help us,” Abdul-Jabbar said, “but through my many years in this league, I’ve found out discretion is the best part. Everything is proven on the court.”