Casual conversations in the Laker front office, held before season-ending meetings decide the precise direction the club will take this summer, have identified Keon Clark, P.J. Brown and Juwan Howard as possible additions at power forward, Karl Malone in the second tier but not the first, and Scottie Pippen as an intriguing backcourt prospect, according to those familiar with the Laker thinking.
Clark would have to opt out of his contract with the Sacramento Kings. The rest are unrestricted free agents.
Malone, who concluded his 18th NBA season when the Sacramento Kings eliminated his Utah Jazz this week, has long had eyes for Los Angeles. While the Lakers do not doubt his skills, even in the summer of his 40th birthday, there is concern that Malone is too aggressive in the locker room and could be divisive.
Despite a need for depth at power forward, the Lakers passed on free agent Charles Oakley last summer in part for the same reason. But Oakley has little of the offensive talent of Malone, who could become the league’s all-time leading scorer in the next two years.
There would be some congruity to Malone’s breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record while wearing a Laker jersey, but that, too, could become complicated. Phil Jackson’s triangle occasionally strains under the weight of two offensive forces -- Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal -- and it is possible the addition of Malone, while going for a scoring mark, would stretch the offense further.
The Lakers would be very interested in Pippen, particularly if he is sound and if he would come for one of the lower salary-cap exceptions, leaving the mid-level exception (about $4.6 million) for the power forward of their choosing.
After grinding through a busy end to their regular season and the first-round, six-game elimination of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers did not practice as a team Friday.
They were to return to the court today in El Segundo, then practice and fly to San Antonio on Sunday. The Western Conference semifinals are scheduled to begin Monday night.
In the two games since Rick Fox’s season-ending injury, Devean George was nine for 19 from the field, averaged 12 points and eight rebounds and generally stayed out of foul trouble. Wally Szczerbiak, who Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders hoped would benefit from Fox’s absence, averaged 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.... Classy through the entire series, Kevin Garnett concluded his postgame news conference Thursday night by saying, “All right? Thank you, L.A.” ... O’Neal’s only triple-double was on Nov. 20, 1993, when he had 24 points, 28 rebounds and 15 blocks for Orlando against New Jersey. He sat down one assist shy of his second on Thursday night.