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Lakers Face a Decision on Horry

Times Staff Writer

Robert Horry’s Laker career could end tonight, after 6 1/2 seasons, three championships and a handful of memorable jump shots that earned him a reputation as a big-game player.

The Lakers are not expected to exercise a $5.3-million option on Horry’s contract for next season. Unless General Manager Mitch Kupchak is able to reach a sign-and-trade deal with another team by midnight -- and those efforts for the last six weeks have proved fruitless -- Horry probably will become a free agent on Tuesday.

He then would be free to negotiate with all teams, including the Lakers, who probably would offer a contract at something closer to $1.4 million, the veteran’s minimum. Horry, who will be 33 in August, previously had expressed an interest in finishing his career closer to his home in Houston, if he were not asked back to Los Angeles.

He averaged 6.5 points last season, then 5.6 points in the postseason, when he missed 36 of 38 three-point attempts. One, at the end of Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals in San Antonio, would have given the Lakers the win and a three-games-to-two advantage in that series.

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“We’re not closing the door regardless of what happens on Monday, that’s for sure,” Coach Phil Jackson said last week. “Robert Horry misses one shot that goes in and out of the basket that could have made a difference between a championship year and being disappointed we’re going home. He did not have a playoff that was up to his standards or up to his qualifications as a player. And, yet, he’s serviced us extremely well here and played very well under my tutelage here. I’m very proud he played with us for the four years he has. He was probably the most important player for me as a clutch player and an intelligent player on the floor. No way we can walk away from that without thinking about him, what his talents can do for us as a team, and what the sacrifices are we have to make.”

The Lakers have identified several power forwards as potential free-agent additions, including veterans P.J. Brown, Juwan Howard and Karl Malone. The negotiating period begins Tuesday, and teams may sign free agents beginning July 16.


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