View Full Version : If the Lakers break up, they're REALLY gonna break up

03-31-2004, 01:20 AM

Fox May Call It a Career
Laker captain says he'll consider retirement this summer if team loses Jackson and key players.

By Tim Brown, Times Staff Writer

Rick Fox, team captain, three-time NBA champion, keeper of locker-room peace and holder of a guaranteed contract through next season, said Monday he would consider retiring this summer if the Lakers lose their coach and too many of their central players.

Already, the Lakers have suspended contract negotiations with Coach Phil Jackson, who has said the odds of his returning to the club were "50-50."

Additionally, on a roster of 14 players, eight — including Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Derek Fisher — could leave as free agents. Bryant has said he will test the market, many in the organization expect Payton to leave, and Malone, 41, recently said he might retire this summer.

Fox, who will be 35 in July and would earn $5.1 million in 2004-05, the final year of his contract, said he believes he could play beyond this season and even next. But, if the roster is drastically altered and Jackson retires to Montana, Fox said he might pursue acting full time.

Change appears to be coming, whether or not the Lakers win a fourth championship in the Jackson era and regardless of the outcome of Bryant's legal issues.

A franchise favorite who runs Jackson's offense selflessly, defends to the ends of his determination and has long helped calm the team's superstars, Fox said he'd make a final decision when he knows more about everyone else's plans.

"With all the uncertainty of our team up in the air, I want to be on a Phil Jackson team, I want to be playing for Dr. Buss and the Lakers, and I want to be working with Kobe and [Shaquille O'Neal], even if they can't get along at times," Fox said. "That's all I've known and that's all I love…. I'll make my decision on whatever everyone else does."

Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he was somewhat surprised by Fox's statements, but added that he knew Fox as "a pensive person who contemplates a lot of things. Those are probably thoughts that go through his head from time to time."

He added, "We're counting on having him back. There will be a lot of issues to deal with once the season ends, but we're not uncomfortable dealing with them."

Among the Lakers' front-line players, only O'Neal seems sure to return.

O'Neal has two years left on his contract, though he could opt out after next season. Negotiations to extend his contract by two seasons have been slow. The Lakers and O'Neal's representatives are nearly $10 million apart, and have been for several months.

Fox had major foot surgery in May and continues to recover, even while playing, and it is his priority to be healthy after basketball. Although he seems willing to risk that for reasonable chances at NBA titles, Fox implied that a major rebuilding effort — even one built around O'Neal — would be undesirable under a new coach.

"I have to weigh what I'm willing to give and take," he said. "I'm not the youngest player in the league anymore, but I can still play a number of years. I'm willing to do that for the right cause. I'm willing to lay my body out there for the right people, for the right organization, the right coach and the right players. That's here, now. It's been here for a while. I don't know if it's going to be here going forward.

"Right now, my mind's only focused on the challenge at hand, which is to win this championship. There's never a thought of not playing basketball when I'm here, when I'm with these guys, when I'm playing for the Lakers in this city. I'd do that for the next six years…. You don't walk away from something that's great."

If three of their four stars leave, or perhaps if only Bryant goes, the recent era of Laker greatness would appear to be in jeopardy.

O'Neal is due $27.7 million next season and $30.6 million the season after. Because of his salary and others — next season $4.5 million is owed to Devean George, $3 million to Fisher, $5.1 million to Fox — the Lakers would be well over the salary cap even if Bryant's $14.6 million came off their books.

That means they'd have only trades and salary-cap exceptions with which to fortify themselves.

As for potentially leaving more than $5 million behind, Fox laughed.

"Money's never made me happy, so that's the last thing I'm worried about," he said. "I've got some things waiting for me."

Sounds like this might be it for the Lakers as we know it, although it's not a certainty.

But there's a possibility that Kobe's gone, Malone and Fox retire, Payton walks, and Jackson retires. One can only hope. I'm sick of this Bulls/Lakers dreck that's come with Phil Jackson.

03-31-2004, 01:27 AM
It's very possiable that's what's gonna happen to the Lakers :laugh:

But I wouldn't count them out for the season looks like gonna beat the hornets easy and now there on a 9 game winning streak and seem to keep building steam..

Psstt . Hicks update your Sig :devil: