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Clippers set sights on signing J.R. Smith

Smith can return to the NBA after his team in China finishes its season. The Clippers hope he can bring scoring punch as backup small forward, says a person with knowledge of the situation.

February 05, 2012|By Broderick Turner
  • J.R. Smith, shown playing for the Denver Nuggets against the Lakers in 2010, can't return to the NBA until his Zhejiang Golden Bulls team's season is over.
J.R. Smith, shown playing for the Denver Nuggets against the Lakers in 2010,… (Luis Sinco )

Reporting from Washington — The Clippers, still not done dealing after signing Kenyon Martin on Friday, will pursue guard J.R. Smith after the team he plays on in the Chinese Basketball Assn. finishes its season and he becomes eligible to play in the NBA, said a person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The Clippers aren't getting enough production off the bench behind small forward Caron Butler and feel as if Smith can provide the team with a big scoring punch at the position, the person said.

Smith, a 6-6 wing player, averaged 12.5 points on 42.8% shooting, including 37.1% from three-point range, during his seven-year NBA career with New Orleans and Denver.

He would be an unrestricted free agent that the Clippers could sign to the mini-mid-level exception of $2.5 million, or for the veteran minimum of about $1 million.

Under the CBA rules, Smith still can't return to the NBA until his Zhejiang Golden Bulls team's season is over. If the Golden Bulls miss the playoffs, it could open the door for Smith to return to the NBA by the All-Star weekend, Feb. 25-26.

The New York Knicks and Lakers reportedly also have interest in Smith.

But the Clippers like their chances because Smith played with Chris Paul in New Orleans and with Chauncey Billups and Martin in Denver.

The Clippers have a 15-man roster and would have to waive a player to make room for Smith.

Martin may arrive Sunday

Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said the team is waiting to get the results back from Martin's physical, but he expects Martin to join the team in Orlando either Sunday or Monday.

Del Negro said there won't be a rush to get Martin in the lineup until he finds out about his conditioning and how he feels about playing.

The coach said he met with Martin in January after the power forward had returned from China, having played for the Xinjiang Tigers in Chinese Basketball Assn.

"Kenyon is an excellent athlete," Del Negro said. "He's not going to be in game condition, even if he's ready to play."

Jordan plays with injured knee

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan wore a long black sleeve on his left leg during the game because of a hyperextended knee suffered during the Utah Jazz game last Wednesday night. Del Negro said Jordan has a bone bruise on the knee.

Jordan was injured in the first quarter against the Jazz when he fell over Utah's Al Jefferson trying to block the center's shot.

At the time, Jordan said his knee was "throbbing." But he continued to play, and he played last Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets.

"I'm doing this for style," Jordan joked about why he wore the sleeve. "No, I can't be hurt now, I'm good."

Jordan finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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