Vlade Divac was placed on waivers by the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday, apparently ending his long career.
The Lakers had the option of picking up a one-year, $5.4 million contract option or buying Divac out for $2 million. The 7-foot-1-inch, 260-pound center, one of the first Europeans to make a significant impact in the NBA, will be owed the $2 million if he clears waivers, which seems a sure thing.
''If he could play, he would play," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. ''Here it is, the first week of training camp, and he can't play."
The 37-year-old Divac underwent back surgery in January, and played in only 15 games for the Lakers last season, averaging 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds. He averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in 15 previous NBA seasons -- seven with the Lakers, two with Charlotte, and six with Sacramento.
The Lakers signed Divac in the summer of 2004 after trading center Shaquille O'Neal to Miami.
''We signed him to a two-year deal thinking he would play two years," Kupchak said.
The Lakers and Divac were originally supposed to make a decision on the player's contract status in July, but mutually agreed to put the decision off until last week. At that stage, they agreed again to extend the deadline until Oct. 21.
Marc Fleisher, Divac's representative, didn't immediately return a phone call. He said last week that his client had gone back and forth several times in terms of trying to play again.
''We both agreed to work with each other and give each other some time to make these decisions," Kupchak said.
Divac was quoted last month as saying he planned to retire, but wanted to remain with the Lakers as an assistant coach and scout.
''We'll talk about that down the road," Kupchak said.
''There's a feeling he'll never play again. Anticipating he'll never play again, I don't think there's a doubt he's the premier European player to play in the NBA."
Divac joins centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in league history officially to get 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, and 1,500 blocked shots.