Brand, Maggette opt out of contracts

Times Staff Writer

The Lakers began the process of renovating their El Segundo offices by moving some officials to temporary headquarters down the street Monday.

Their lineup in the fall will probably have a similar look -- some remodeling but still the same framework.

The Lakers started their pursuit of Sasha Vujacic and Ronny Turiaf when free agency began Monday night, with General Manager Mitch Kupchak lobbing phone calls to representatives for both restricted free agents.

Neither player agreed to terms with the Lakers as of late Monday night, though the team could match any offer from another team.


The Clippers carried the local basketball news of the day when Elton Brand and Corey Maggette opted out of their contracts, but a headline in Northern California was of some interest to the Lakers.

Sacramento forward Ron Artest did not opt out of his contract, choosing to stay with the Kings for one more season at $7.4 million.

Artest, 28, visited the Lakers’ locker room during the NBA Finals and spoke glowingly of Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom in recent weeks, but it looks like the only way he becomes a member of the Lakers next season would be by trade, a near impossibility because of a rivalry between the teams that extends beyond being Pacific Division foes.

The Lakers are intrigued by the defensive presence offered by Artest, who also averaged a career-high 20.5 points a game last season. They might take a longer look at him if he becomes a free agent next season. Then again, the Lakers are still expected to be well over the salary cap in a year, assuming they give Andrew Bynum a five-year extension before next season begins.

In fact, they will probably pay luxury taxes for years to come. Pau Gasol is under contract for three more years and $49.4 million. Bynum could receive a total of $80 million in his extension. In a year, Bryant has the option of ripping up the final two years of his contract and signing a new five-year deal for a presumably lucrative sum.

In other words, the Lakers, who will pay almost $5 million in luxury taxes for last season’s payroll, won’t be making any big free-agent signings other than their own players.

Earlier Monday, they established right of first refusal by giving qualifying one-year offers to Vujacic ($2.6 million for next season) and Turiaf ($1 million).

If the Lakers do not sign Vujacic, they will explore other options. The most they could offer a free agent would be the mid-level exception of about $6 million a year for up to five years.

Vujacic, 24, recently completed his fourth, and best, season with the Lakers, averaging 8.8 points in 72 regular-season games while shooting 43.7% from three-point range -- all career bests.

He began elevating his game in February and was effective in spurts in the playoffs, including a 20-point effort against Boston in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Turiaf, 25, averaged career-bests of 6.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in his third season with the Lakers but was not a big factor in the playoffs, slipping to averages of only two points and 1.4 rebounds in 19 games. His playing time was also cut from 18.7 minutes a game in the regular season to 9.8 minutes a game in the playoffs.


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Some of the prominent unrestricted NBA free agents:

Big names

* Baron Davis, guard

* Gilbert Arenas, guard

* Elton Brand, forward

* Corey Maggette, forward

Role players

* Dikembe Mutombo, center

* Alonzo Mourning, center

* DeSagana Diop, center

* Kwame Brown, center

* Kurt Thomas, center

* James Posey, forward

* Mickael Pietrus, forward

* Michael Finley, guard

* Jannero Pargo, guard

* Beno Udrih, guard