Lakers get Sacre, Johnson-Odom from draft
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP)
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Gonzaga center Robert Sacre on Thursday night with the final pick of the NBA draft.
The Lakers also acquired the rights to Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom for cash considerations. Johnson-Odom was the 55th overall pick by Dallas.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was pleased to land two intriguing prospects late in the draft, but he's only at the beginning of a summer that will be spent trying to improve. Kupchak can't comment directly on the latest round of trade rumors surrounding Pau Gasol, but acknowledges the Lakers will attempt to make moves in free agency and the trade market.
''It's an exciting time and a busy time for us,'' Kupchak said. ''I know we have great fan interest, that are watching closely. Hopefully, we can do something good. We always try to hit a home run.''
Yet Kupchak also said he's confident the current roster is solid, echoing owner Jim Buss' previous statements suggesting the Lakers won't make big changes just to shake up a team that reached the second round of the playoffs.
''You don't want to do a deal that you're not comfortable with or you're not looking for,'' Kupchak said. ''If you don't find that deal, I think if this group is kept intact, and we've got some work to do with free agents, I don't see why we couldn't be in the hunt next year.''
The Lakers will get a longer look at their new draft picks in the summer league next month, and both could be intriguing prospects.
Johnson-Odom said the Lakers weren't among the 11 teams that worked him out in recent weeks. He thought Indiana was most interested in him, but was thrilled when Dallas drafted him - and still thrilled when the Lakers grabbed him.
''I'm just blessed to be in this situation,'' Johnson-Odom said. ''I want to be that guy to have that spark off the bench, energy. The guy that contributes on the defensive end, makes plays. That's something I think I'm able to do at a high level.''
Johnson-Odom was an all-conference shooting guard as a senior last season, leading the Golden Eagles in scoring for the second straight year with 18.3 points per game. The Raleigh, N.C., product transferred to Marquette after one season at Hutchinson Community College, producing three solid seasons in Milwaukee.
He's small for an NBA shooting guard at 6-foot-2, but the Lakers traditionally haven't been scared away by undersized shooters, as evidenced by drafting 6-foot-3 Andrew Goudelock last year. Kupchak said of Johnson-Odom: ''At the most, he's 6-2.''
Johnson-Odom's middle name is Earvin, and he confirmed his mother named him for Lakers great Magic Johnson: ''I wouldn't tell my dad this, but I think she kind of liked him.''
Sacre is a 7-foot Canadian who was the West Coast Conference's defensive player of the year. He made his second straight all-league first team last season, averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots.
''First thing I thought of was, best for last,'' Sacre said of being the NBA's Mr. Irrelevant. ''I was selected to go to one of the greatest teams in NBA history.''
Sacre also didn't work out for the Lakers because he couldn't accommodate their late request for a tryout this week: ''It was kind of ironic. They knew what they wanted, I guess. I'm fortunate.''
Sacre is friendly with Ronny Turiaf, another former Gonzaga big man and Lakers draft choice. He envisions himself as a defensive stopper and a backup for Gasol and Andrew Bynum, calling them ''the greatest two big men'' and "a combo punch.''
Although Kupchak was pleased with his prospects, draft day hasn't been particularly important for several years to a salary cap-pushing franchise that once drafted everybody from Elgin Baylor to Derek Fisher.
The Lakers haven't even made a first-round pick since 2009, when they immediately traded Toney Douglas to New York, and they haven't drafted a regular starter since picking the 17-year-old Bynum in 2005. Devin Ebanks, a second-round pick in 2010, started occasionally for the Lakers last season, but hasn't earned a consistent rotation spot in two years.
Kupchak said he'll be on the phone Saturday night when free agency opens, making a call to Ramon Sessions' agent. The point guard declined to exercise his player option for next season, becoming an unrestricted free agent, but the Lakers want him back.
Los Angeles also must decide what to do about unrestricted free agents Matt Barnes and Jordan Hill, while Ebanks is a restricted free agent. The Lakers' extensive salary commitments will limit their flexibility, but Kupchak sounded confident the club can fill all of its needs while searching for the home run deal to push the Lakers forward.
''We may be looking at the heels of a couple of teams in the West, but we all know that the team with the best record (in the regular season) didn't win the championship,'' Kupchak said. ''A lot of it is timing, staying healthy and playing your best basketball at the end of the year.''