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Signing J.R. Smith could be difficult for Lakers

LAKERS FYI

Swingman appears interested, but Lakers can offer only a small salary, and there are other teams in the mix.

February 15, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • J.R. Smith, center, tries to beat Kobe Bryant to a loose ball during a game between the Denver Nuggets and Lakers in 2010. Smith, a free agent, could sign with the Lakers if he's willing to play for less pay.
J.R. Smith, center, tries to beat Kobe Bryant to a loose ball during a game… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

The Lakers have joined the race for free agent J.R. Smith, a forward-guard who could solve two problems at once for them.

Smith would help at small forward and also provide backup support for Kobe Bryant at shooting guard.

Smith, 26, has played in China since the NBA season began. He signed with a Chinese pro team during the NBA lockout and was forced to honor the contract until this month.

There are plenty of hurdles for the Lakers here.

Because the Lakers were well over the salary cap and spent their mini-mid-level exception on Josh McRoberts, they can offer Smith only the comparatively small salary of about $450,000, the prorated portion of the veterans' minimum. Smith made $6.8 million last season with Denver.

Furthermore, Smith is being pursued by several other teams he listed on his Twitter page: New York, Chicago, Indiana, Orlando and the Clippers.

Just the same, Smith seemed somewhat eager about the Lakers, writing on Twitter that he "Just had a great talk with Coach [Mike] Brown!"

Smith averaged 12.3 points and 23.9 minutes last season for Denver. He shot a solid 39% from three-point range.

Brown has tried three players at small forward this season: Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks.

The Lakers don't have a true backup for Bryant, using point guards Steve Blake or Andrew Goudelock to spell him at times.

Good luck

It's not quite the Jeremy Lin story, but there was some luck for 'Lock.

Goudelock had a sinking feeling in training camp, the type that usually ends with a general manager calling a player into his office and saying, "You've done everything we've asked, but…."

Indeed, Goudelock thought he would be cut by the Lakers in December.

"It was to the point where I was calling my agent and said, 'Man, look, these guys aren't really liking me. My opportunities might have to come somewhere else because I don't get any reps in practice. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be here long,' " Goudelock said.

It's not unusual these days if the rookie leads the Lakers' point guards in scoring. He had 10 points in 14 minutes Tuesday against Atlanta.

"The reality of it is I was close to cutting him at one point earlier in the year," Brown said recently. "Who would have thunk that he would have been my backup point guard and played well for us when he got thrown into the fire?"

A second-round draft pick last year from the College of Charleston, Goudelock has made an impression with his strong three-point accuracy (43.2%) and driving teardrop shots that fall almost perfectly over taller defenders' hands.

He's just happy to have a job.

"Almost being cut, I was at the lowest point I've ever been," Goudelock said. "I was calling my parents because I didn't know what else to do. I said, 'I'm sorry. I came out here and did everything I can, but it's just not going to work.' God works in mysterious ways. I don't know how it happened."

Ebanks sent down

Ebanks started the Lakers' first four games but hadn't done much since then. He was sent down Wednesday to their Development League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

Ebanks did not play in the last seven games. He averaged 2.7 points and 12.6 minutes in 12 games. He still holds a spot on the Lakers' roster and continues to be paid by them.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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