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Lakers Turn Attention to McKie

Times Staff Writer

After taking a week to study their options, the Lakers on Wednesday opened negotiations to bring in a new starting point guard -- not with Derek Anderson, but with Aaron McKie.

Until General Manager Mitch Kupchak contacted McKie’s agent, Leon Rose, the Lakers had been focused on Anderson. The switch is thought to have been prompted by Coach Phil Jackson, who decided he preferred the 6-foot-5, 210-pound McKie, who is bigger and more solid if not as talented as Anderson.

Both players were released as amnesty moves and are far from the zenith of their careers. Anderson, 31, missed 66 games the last two seasons. McKie, 32, played only 48 games last season, averaged a career-low 2.2 points and shot 16 free throws in the entire campaign.

Jackson is known for having an unusual profile for players in his unusual triangle offense. In 1999, when he took over the Lakers for the first time, he benched starting point guard Derek Fisher, whom then-general manager Jerry West had just signed to a five-year, $15-million contract, and brought in 35-year-old Ron Harper to run the team.

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For a backup, Jackson brought in Brian Shaw, who was 33 and had played one game the season before.

Of course, with Jackson’s eccentric personnel choices, the Lakers won their first of three consecutive titles that season.

McKie peaked in the 2001-02 season when he averaged 12.2 points as a starter for Philadelphia in a three-guard lineup with Allen Iverson and Eric Snow as the 76ers reached the NBA Finals before losing to the Lakers.

McKie played in the Finals with a stress fracture in one foot and was never the same. His scoring average dropped from 12.2 to 9.0 to 9.2 to last season’s 2.2 when new Coach Jim O’Brien dropped him out of the rotation.

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Owed $19.5 million over the next three seasons, McKie was released by the 76ers Monday and was reportedly close to signing with New Jersey, which would have kept the Philadelphia native close to home.

However, the Nets can only offer the veterans’ minimum, $1.1 million for a player with 10 years service. The Lakers still have their $5.2 million veterans’ exception and are hoping to split it for two players, either a guard and a big man, or two guards.

“New Jersey has shown a lot of interest,” Rose said from his Pennsauken, N.J., office. “We’re just in the process of seeing what’s out there and making a decision.”

Kupchak, who has been conducting negotiations by phone while vacationing with his family, is on his way back and is expected to resume his talks with Rose today.

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Anderson remains on the Lakers’ list but is being considered by other teams too. Michael Finley, recently released by the Mavericks, the best of the available shooting guards, is being courted by Miami, Detroit, Phoenix and San Antonio. Minnesota’s Latrell Sprewell, a free agent, emerging as the No. 2 shooting guard, is talking to Detroit, in case the Pistons don’t get Finley, and Houston.

Anderson is talking to Detroit, Houston and Minnesota, as well as the Lakers.


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