Storyline: Tarik Black Free Agency

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Black appeared in 51 games this season, averaging 3.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks in just over 10 minutes per game. He is a consummate professional, great teammate and locker room presence, but his future with Houston isn’t exactly clear. “ loved being back in Houston,” his agent, Mike Lelchitski, told Rockets Wire. “Obviously, he would like the opportunity to help the team more on the court. He’s also looking forward to hearing what other opportunities will be available to him.”

So, the inquisitive Black asked Johnson and Pelinka a series of detailed questions regarding himself. The most pointed one: “Where do you see me in five years as a player?” Because of how Johnson and Pelinka answered his questions, including that one, Black walked away the meeting expressing confidence he will remain on the Lakers for the 2017-18 season. “I don’t know what kind of story will be created if I sat here and said no,” Black said. “That’s a given and the honest truth. I believe I will be. But once again the NBA is passion, basketball, business. You can’t avoid that.”

External circumstances aside, though, Black sounded encouraged Johnson and Pelinka told him, “I have a lot of potential and can get better.” All of which led Black to believe he will still wear a Lakers jersey next season. “If they weren’t interested in bringing me back, they would’ve just said, ‘Well, it’s nice having you Tarik, we enjoyed you, we’ll be in touch,” Black said, smiling. “The fact they’re sitting there, having the conversation and listening to my questions and they seriously answered them and we talked about development, it just gives me confidence moving forward.”

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed center Tarik Black, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released. “Tarik is a player whose strengths are well-suited for the style of play we envision for our team going forward,” said Kupchak. “He plays the game with a mix of athleticism, energy, and physicality that make him a valuable frontcourt contributor in today’s NBA.”
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October 16, 2018 | 3:39 pm EDT Update
In China, he was unable to communicate, and therefore out of his element. A player from another team taught Whiteside how to greet: “Wǒ shì nǐ bàba”—hi, nice to meet you. He said it to everyone at home, on the road, in the gym. There were never any “you, too’s” in return, only blank stares. Well into the season, Whiteside found out from his team’s general manager that he was actually saying “I’m your daddy.” Whiteside immediately recognized the player in the layup line a year later, after he had left for Lebanon again, then returned back to China. He wishes he had dunked on him. Wǒ shì nǐ bàba.
That progress stalled in the 2017-18 season. And it felt impossible to get in gear from the sidelines. “Especially,” Whiteside says, “when you can see a game and you know you can help.” We’re settled inside now, sitting in leather chairs made for 7-footers. Last season’s body language experts would be picking him apart: slumped shoulders, looking in the distance as he’s talking. “Maybe our record would have been different. We would have been a whole different seed in the playoffs.” He knows he was sluggish after missing so much time—28 games total, nine in March. Less agile, slower, and trying to catch up on Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra’s schemes. I ask if he feared being forgotten again. “I can avoid that,” he says. Avoid what? “Falling back to people not knowing.”