Every morning at eight o'clock, a tall man with a shuffling gate stops at a cafe in the Ukrainian village of Kodra. Some days he will have a sweet cake, more often, he'll only sip a strong coffee before continuing on his way. Chronic back problems and early arthritis have taken their toll. Stanislav was once in the NBA. He was married to a beautiful Ukrainian film producer. Injuries, divorce and a series of poor investments followed. At an unheated school gymnasium, Slava shoots a worn basketball methodically, until a slight hand tremor subsides. He has been contacted by his former team. He is attempting one last comeback. None of this is true.
The Lakers do have needs. A utility big man, a shooter and a point guard. Deep into the luxury tax and severely restricted by a new collective bargaining agreement, they are combing bargain basemen bins. Veterans who don't need the money and have never played for a ring. Maverick shooters who do nothing else. Undrafted rookies. That the Lakers are in this position at all, is a miracle. The hyenas of the league, also known as hardliners, tried their hardest to kill the season. If not for the threat of federal lawsuits, they would have succeeded.
Below, in no particular order, is a list of available players that the Lakers either are, should, or should never, be looking at:
Josh McRoberts – the 6-10 utility big man would like to stay with the Pacers but they're looking to upgrade at the position. As McRoberts said, “It kind of feels like your girlfriend's gone out and is seeing if there's any better options, then they may come back to you later.”
Jason Kapono – worked out at the Lakers' El Segundo facility today. The 6-8 shooter barely left the 76ers' bench last season but he's 43.7 percent from behind the arc for his career. *Update - the Lakers have supposedly offered Kapono vet minimum for two years. You heard it here last.
Delonte West – the Lakers tried to sign the Cavs/Celtics two-guard last season. "Redz" is perhaps best known for cutting off a cop at a high rate of speed... whilst on a 3-wheeled motorsickle. Upon investigation, a loaded shotgun and several large knives were found stashed in a guitar case strapped across his back. Loaded pistols were hidden inside his pant legs. Plus there's that Gloria James business. If he comes to L.A., hide your mothers.
Adam Morrison – he of the beastly revival in Serbia, has been let out of his Red Star Belgrade contract in order to troll free agency waters. Ammo says his first choice would be to play “somewhere in the Western Hemisphere.” Phil's gone now, Adam. C'mon back.
Grant Hill – nothing funny here. I've coveted this guy as a Laker for eons. He'd apparently prefer closing out his career with the setting Suns.
Sasha Vujacic – the Machine's a free agent after having a best-ever season with the New Jersey Nets. Oddly, the Lakers' best acquisition chip is the $5.5 million trade exemption received for swapping him for Joe Smith's corpse. Not that it could be used to get him back or that the Lakers would remotely consider a second go-round with the eyebrows from Slovenia. However, he brings unexpected depth as revealed here, last season.
Rasheed Wallace - “I'm not gonna start the game by cracking a cat in the skull if I don't get elbowed first." I know he's retired, but still - it's 'Sheed.
A Maybach Landaulet glides up to Planet Fitness in Kyiv. A personal trainer opens the door for Slava Medvenko and his willowy assistant Mindy. Medvenko 's in the best shape of his life. He banked over ten million during his shortened career and invested in a highly-lucrative chain of salt-pork drive-throughs in the Ukarine's northern region. Slava has been contacted by his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. I would tag this with a qualifying statement of some sort but the old dog is standing by the door with worried eyes.
I step outside. The temperature has been dropping like a rock and slanting needles of rain have arrived. Free agency is here.