Michael Cooper, a key performer in Showtime for more than a decade, may have finally run out of time.
The Lakers reportedly have told the 34-year-old guard that he might not be back for a 13th season, that he could be traded or put on waivers.
On Saturday, Corriere Dello Sport, an Italian newspaper, reported that Il Messaggero Roma of the Italian league has offered Cooper a $900,000-a-year contract. The paper, as well as La Gazzetta dello Sport, reported the deal hinged on whether the Lakers would match the offer.
“But (the deal) can be considered a sure thing and will be announced early next week,” Corriere Dello Sport reported.
Team president Carlo Sama was quoted as saying: “He could be the right man for Messaggero.Because of American rules, we have to wait a few more days. “
Contacted at his home Saturday, Cooper responded that “as far as I know, I’m still a Laker. I heard these rumors about Italy earlier this year and nothing happened.”
Laker General Manager Jerry West is on vacation.
His assistant, Mitch Kupchak, said the team has “never considered Michael Cooper expendable. He’s been a true-blue Laker as far back as I can remember. We plan on having him back next year. He’s under contract and we fully expect him to play.”
Would that mean he would not be traded?
“We look at every situation as it comes up,” Kupchak said. “That (Cooper’s departure) would be a decision Michael Cooper would make along with Dr. (Jerry) Buss.”
West has indicated he’d like to make a deal before the start of training camp. Rumors have run through the summer that the Lakers, despite a league-high 63 victories last season, are ready to break up the team of the ‘80s to build a team for the ‘90s.
Friday, the Lakers traded forward Orlando Woolridge to the Denver Nuggets for two draft choices.
The removal of Woolridge and, perhaps, Cooper, could free up money the club might need under the salary cap to obtain a high-priced player.
Cooper, known for his Coop-a-Loops early in his career, game-breaking three-pointers in the later years and tough defense throughout, is one of two remaining Lakers to have played throughout the ‘80s.
Magic Johnson is the other.
Johnson, of course, will be back. At this point, no other player can say that with absolute certainty.