Lakers still playing waiting game

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- While the Los Angeles Lakers tried to move forward with actual basketball Monday, gathering their group of summer league invitees for the first of a handful of practices before summer league tips off in Las Vegas on Friday, there’s still a lot of waiting going on.

Rookie Julius Randle, medically cleared by a foot specialist last week to play on his right foot without any further surgical procedures, is waiting to sign his contract before he can participate in the summer league games.

“We’ll see,” Randle said when asked if he would be suiting up for the Lakers first game against the Toronto Raptors on Friday. “It’s kind of really out of my hands right now. I’m ready to play whenever, but it’s not really in my hands right now.”

The Lakers, of course, are waiting to actually ink Randle to his rookie deal as long as they are pursuing Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, because they want to keep as much cap space open as possible to facilitate the deals.

ESPN writer and salary cap expert Larry Coon explained the Lakers’ reasoning in an email to ESPNLosAngles.com:

“Free agents, first round draft picks and exceptions have ‘cap holds’ which are used to account for the money that is expected to be spent, reducing the amount the team can spend on other teams’ free agents. As the Lakers’ first round draft pick (and number seven overall), Julius Randle has a cap hold on the Lakers’ books for $2.497,800. If the Lakers were to make a free agent offer to, say, Carmelo Anthony, they can’t offer him any of the money that’s in Randle’s cap hold -- it’s set aside for Randle.

“The amount of Randle’s cap hold is determined by the league salary scale, however teams can sign their first round picks for up to 120 percent of the scale amount, which means Randle will be eligible to sign for up to $2,997,360. High draft picks almost always sign for the full amount for which they are eligible. As soon as Randle signs his contract, his cap hold goes away and is replaced with his actual salary -- so instead of counting approximately $2.5 million on the Lakers’ books, he will count nearly $3 million.

"So when a team like the Lakers is chasing free agents, it makes sense to delay the signing of their first round draft picks. If the Lakers were to sign Randle first (assuming he will get the full 120%, which is a near certainty), they would have approximately $500,000 less to offer a free agent.”

Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall has also had his patience tested. He’s on a non-guaranteed contract for next season worth approximately $915,000. Despite starting 45 games last season for L.A. after being plucked from the D-League, he will be playing on the Lakers’ summer league team.

“I feel like I still have a lot to prove,” Marshall said of the summer league assignment. “For some reason, there’s always a reason why I’m successful or why I’m not successful. So I kind of need to put that doubt to rest and just go out there and prove I can play.”

What Marshall is waiting for is a coach. With the Brooklyn Nets introducing Lionel Hollins on Monday, the Lakers again became the lone team in the league without a head coach in place.

“It’s a little hard because one thing I take pride in as a point guard is knowing my offense and defense like the back of my hand,” Marshall said of preparing to impress the team without a coach’s schemes to study. “But it’s kind of hard to do that right now. So, it’s focusing on just getting better and doing things that can be successful no matter who the coach is.”

Meanwhile, Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson, introduced to the media Monday after posing for photos holding his new No. 5 jersey alongside general manager Mitch Kupchak, vowed to play with “chip on my shoulder” after waiting so long to hear his name called on draft night.

Clarkson, a 6-5, 194-pound point guard out of Missouri, wasn’t selected until the No. 46 pick of the second round by Washington before L.A. acquired his rights for $1.8 million. He told reporters he went into the draft believing he could be picked as high as No. 16 by Chicago, but more likely settle in the 20-30 range.

“I feel like I was one of the better point guards in the draft, maybe the best,” Clarkson said. “Just falling out of the first round and being selected in the second round, but the number really doesn’t matter where you get drafted. It’s about the fit. That’s where I get my chip from.”

And after seeing the entire circus surrounding the Lakers as they have targeted free agents and rolled out the red carpet treatment to try to woo them, Marshall can’t wait until he’s sitting in the coveted seat.

“It’s entertaining,” Marshall said. “It’s comedy to me, to be honest with you. You see all this stuff that the teams will go through for players and everything like that. You just hope that you’re fortunate to be in that situation one day.”

In the meantime, Marshall isn’t holding his breath about being involved in the Lakers’ recruiting efforts.

“I knocked on the door,” Marshall joked about the Lakers’ pitch meeting with Anthony, “they said go away.”