Lakers Take at Least One Step Forward

Times Staff Writer

Slava Medvedenko signed a two-year contract Monday with the Lakers, bringing back into the fold at least one free-agent power forward while another continued to ponder his options.

A decent rebounder and frequent shooter from the outside, Medvedenko showed signs of overcoming a language barrier last season and averaged career highs of 8.3 points and five rebounds.

Medvedenko, who lives in Ukraine during the off-season, flew in Sunday from Kiev to sign the contract and to undergo a physical Monday, which he was expected to pass.


Medvedenko’s agent said his client wanted to re-sign with the Lakers after he initially took a wait-and-watch approach.

“There was obviously a little concern on his part to see what direction the team would go,” Marc Fleisher said. “He has a lot of respect for Rudy Tomjanovich. He was particularly pleased to hear they were going to have a running style for the team. That’s an area he excels in and an area he’s not been able to take advantage of.

“For a guy his size, he can get up and down the floor. That was lost because a lot of times the Lakers were running the triangle offense.”

Medvedenko, 25, made $1.54 million last season, his fourth with the Lakers. His contributions slipped in the playoffs -- he averaged only four points and 2.5 rebounds -- but the Lakers liked his toughness and shooting ability, and wanted him back.

“We’ve seen him improve every year,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “Last year, we relied on him a lot with the injury to Karl [Malone] and of course when Horace Grant went down, even more so. We think he’s turned the corner. Having said that, he does have to continue to work and he’s shown us that he’ll do that.”

As for Malone, the Lakers are waiting to learn of his plans.

A free agent, he is weighing opportunities with several teams, the Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat among them. Retirement remains a lesser possibility for Malone, who is recovering from finger and knee surgeries.