Free-agent profile: Jeff Foster
This is the 28th post in a series of free-agent profiles that analyzes particular players and how they might fit in with the Lakers.
Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster
Type of free agent: Unrestricted
Positives: The answer to the question of why Lakers forward Ron Artest likes Foster so much is pretty simple. He brings front-court toughness, as indicated by his hard fouls in the first round of the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls. He hustles on the glass. He fights for loose balls. He wants to win.
All of those qualities should prove valuable enough for a player who wouldn't command heavy minutes playing behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, but Foster would be a necessary presence in providing the intense practices Bynum and Gasol need. He's also proved he can defend perimeter players on the wing and at the basket, so if the Lakers suffer a breakdown defending the pick-and-roll, Foster can cover those lapses.
Negatives: Foster's athleticism has diminished as he continues fighting injuries. Last season, he only appeared in 26 games because of various health issues, hardly something the Lakers can absorb.
One only has to look at how Theo Ratliff's prolonged absence after only eight games into the season exposed the Lakers' inability to handle the loss of Bynum for 24 games as he completed rehab on his surgically repaired right knee. Should Bynum suffer another injury, Foster could be solid enough to command more minutes, but it remains unclear if his health would hold up.
Verdict: The Lakers need to give Foster a call. It's unlikely he'll command a heavy salary, and he's one of the better options available on the free-agent market.
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Pacers center Jeff Foster elevates between Lakers guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant for a layup in the fourth quarter of a regular-season game in January 2009. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times