The Lakers will add even more international flavor to its roster with the signing of swingman Mickael Gelabale, who will be the second French player in franchise history after Ronny Turiaf. The former Sonic will join the team for training camp on a make-good contract.
Gelabale, whose career has been recently derailed by injury problems, is understandably excited about the prospect of playing for the NBA champions.
"It's a dream come true for me," Gelabale said. "It's a legendary team, with guys like Magic, Kareem, Kobe... I was a fan of the team as a kid."
Gelabale's second season with the Sonics, where he averaged 4.5 ppg and 2.1, was cut short due to to an ACL injury. He's been trying to recover from it for the last year and a half, even making an appearance in the D-League last season with the L.A. D-Fenders, the Lakers' affiliate.
The French swingman claims he's fully recovered now.
"The knees are very good. It's 100 per cent," Gelabale said. "We had some tests in Los Angeles and both of my knees are very, very strong. I've been working out a lot and now I'm even able to do things I couldn't do before."
The 6-foot-7 Gelabale has relied a lot on his athleticism throughout his career, so being completely healthy is key for him in order to have a chance to make the Lakers' opening night roster. With a team stucked with scorers, he'll have to earn his spot showing his defensive skills. There, Gelabale thinks he's up to the task.
"I had other options in the NBA. Other teams invited me, but I chose the Lakers because I think I can make the team. I can bring my defense to the Lakers. I remember there have been times when I played against Kobe that he would congratulate after the game for being such a good defender. I know it's going to be hard to make the team, but you have to start somewhere."
Gelabale had a deal in place with Alicante of the Spanish League earlier in the summer, but it finally didn't go through because of contract issues.
"They said they were going to pay me 400,000 euros, but they changed the contract to 350,000 without my knowledge. I'm not one to renounce my word, but I couldn't take that. I didn't go to Alicante, but I'm not closing the door to Europe."
That would be Plan B. The No. 1 option right now, even if a long shot, is making the Lakers.