Lakers sign Shawne Williams, have interest in Xavier Henry
The Lakers aren’t exactly accustomed to digging through the scrap heap for rotation-worthy talent, but the team’s current financial situation — in which the salaries of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol alone account for $50 million against a $58.7 million salary cap — has left no alternative. That glitziest of NBA franchises must now forage for role players with the rest of the league, all without the draw of sporting a contending roster. There’s room for playing time, the natural appeal of Los Angeles and the draw of playing alongside Bryant and Steve Nash. But at the moment the Lakers are just another team, far removed from their back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
That makes it a bit difficult to lure in quality talent on the cheap, and instead positions the Lakers to take fliers on players that other teams have already evaluated and tossed aside. Such is the case with Wes Johnson, Nick Young and now, Shawne Williams. On Tuesday the Lakers announced their signing of Williams, who has bounced in and out of the league since 2006 due to attitude problems and legal troubles. Williams pled guilty for possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) as recently as February, but will get his third “second chance” after initial reboot attempts with the Mavericks and Knicks. Williams showed promise in New York as a corner three-point shooter and long-armed defender, but has never managed to stick around with a team long enough to carve out much of a career. He last played with the Nets in 2011-12, and given his track record, it’s unlikely that his deal with the Lakers is guaranteed.
But L.A. may not be done there. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, the Lakers also have interest in former lottery pick Xavier Henry. That characterization may be a bit misleading; after being selected with the 12th pick in the 2010 draft, Henry didn’t stick around in the league long enough to see out his four-year rookie contract before being released. Teams typically only decline a rookie-scale option on particularly useless players, and while that might be a harsh characterization of Henry, New Orleans apparently felt it had seen enough to send him on his way. Had the then-Hornets opted to retain Henry for a fourth season, it would have cost the team $3.2 million.
But his unceremonious release allowed Henry to enter unrestricted free agency. He remains unsigned, but Henry could sign with a team for training camp to compete for a roster spot, and may well make the cut over other fringe NBA players. Henry may not have much to show for his stint in the NBA as of yet, but he’s only 22 years old, fairly athletic and could pan out as a decent cutter if he develops a better grasp of the NBA game. That’s not a ton to work with, but Henry’s vague potential and former lottery status does offer him a bit of intrigue that other players on the cusp might lack. Such a résumé could be of particular interest to a team like the Lakers, who are in need of players who can offer a potential splash on a bargain salary. Henry would be a stretch to fit that bill, but perhaps his relatively raw game could be sold as an opportunity for growth on a team lacking in young talent.