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Category: Joe Smith

Lakers can't let limited payroll inhibit risk-taking

Just like everyone else consumed with NBA basketball, Lakers forward Matt Barnes listens to the trade rumors.

Not all of them. He says he only cares about whether a rumor involves the Lakers. But unlike the average NBA fan, he has -- and is willing to share -- some insider knowledge, particularly when it involves any possibility his former teammates Dwight Howard or Baron Davis could join the Lakers.

"I've talked to both of those guys and they want to be here," Barnes said Friday at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "We'll see what happens."

We sure will. But don't start pre-ordering Howard or Davis Lakers jerseys just yet. The Lakers face an unfortunate reality: A $91-million payroll, increased luxury taxes and increased revenue sharing suddenly make General Manager Mitch Kupchak worried about finances. 

"Based on our financial structure, we would be very limited in what we can do with our team in terms of free agency in the next two weeks," Kupchak said.

Fair enough. Last year, the Lakers could offer free agents a five-year, $32-million contract. This year, they can only offer a mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million, as well as a veteran's minimum of one year and $1 million. Short term, the Lakers may only need to address low-hanging fruit, such as formally cutting ties with Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff, likely letting Shannon Brown go, exercising $788,872 team options on Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and signing rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. 

But as the Lakers begin free agency on Dec. 9, they can't let such scenarios inhibit their risk-taking. It's a no-brainer to pursue Howard, but it involves much more creative structuring of deals than when picking up peripheral players. It's a no-brainer to pursue Chris Paul once free agency hits next season, but why wait when he's reportedly demanding a trade to New York?

Kupchak may feel confident that the Lakers can win a title with the current roster, but playing it safe could hurt the team's long-term future once Kobe Bryant's and Pau Gasol's contracts end after the 2013-14 seasons.

Of course, Lakers owner Jerry Buss has thrived on risk-taking. But as an avid poker player, he knows that doesn't always require having the most chips. It also requires doing the most thinking. 

-- Mark Medina

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Mitch Kupchak says Lakers will be 'very limited' in free agency

Mitch Kupchak

The Lakers roster that takes the floor at Staples Center on Christmas could look a lot like the one that shows up when training camp starts a week from Friday.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday during a media conference at the team's training facility in El Segundo that he would be "very limited" as far as bringing in free agents. Depending on whether shooting guard Shannon Brown decides to re-sign with the team, the Lakers could target a guard and forward in free agency but have limited options to acquire them.

They can use the so-called mini mid-level exception of three years and $9.4 million as well as a veteran's minimum of $1 million, leaving the Lakers hoping that quality players will want to come to Los Angeles for other reasons besides money.

"We're hopeful there's a player out there who's made money in his career and is on the back end and is looking at a championship, or a player who is developing," Kupchak said. "That's harder to do."

Kupchak said he did not anticipate that Theo Ratliff or Joe Smith would be returning to the roster, but he confirmed that he had been in contact with Brown's agent. The Lakers can exercise team options on second-year players Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter and must decide whether to sign second-round draft picks Darrius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.

Kupchak almost sounded resigned to losing Brown, who has been a free agent at the end of each of his seasons with the Lakers and has explored more lucrative offers elsewhere.

"My guess is, you can only continue to do that for such a period of time where it doesn't make any more sense," Kupchak said, "so I would think this year he would look for and probably get a package that's financially much more attractive than we could offer under the present rules."

Morris, Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes were among the Lakers who stopped by the team's training facility for informal workouts Friday. Coach Mike Brown briefly hailed Fisher from across the court before smiling and putting his finger to his lips, a nod to the fact that coaches are not supposed to speak with players before the NBA lockout formally ends.

With only 16 days to hold practices before the Lakers' opener, the coach said he would try not to overwhelm his players. And what would he call Metta World Peace?

"I might just call him Metta or Met," Brown said. "I don't want to call him Peace, because he might think that's grounds for him to leave practice."

We'll have more later at

-- Ben Bolch

Photo: "We believe in this group," Mitch Kupchak says of the current Lakers roster. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

Joe Smith argues with a Halloween pumpkin

The NBA owners and players' union had better reach a labor deal soon. Or else we're going to be watching videos, such as Lakers forward Joe Smith arguing with a pumpkin, on a pretty frequent basis. (Hat tip to Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin).


Five things Joe Smith needs for a successful season for the Lakers

Joe Smith talks about rap music and his hat collection

Lakers Report Card: Joe Smith

--Mark Medina

— Email the Lakers blog at

Five things Joe Smith needs for a successful season for the Lakers

Joe Smith

This is the 15th post in a series focusing on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2011-12 season (assuming there is one, of course).

1. Get re-signed. Joe Smith and General Manager Mitch Kupchak each had their own way of showing their cards. Smith gushed in his exit interview about wanting to extend his nomadic 15-year NBA career, preferably with the Lakers. Kupchak raised doubts before the  draft on whether Smith still wants to play. So yes, Smith's return is highly unlikely. But out of fairness, it's hard to predict how anything will shake up after the NBA lockout. 

2. Show more interest fitting in with roster. Smith seemed content last season with lacking a definitive role, and the coaching staff appeared to feel the same. It's to some degree understandable because Smith has little to offer. But for all the hand-wringing over Pau Gasol's fatigue, Andrew Bynum's continuous monitoring of his surgically repaired right knee and Derrick Caracter's lack of preparation, the Lakers would've been better served in ensuring Smith can offer something. In turn, Smith appeared too willing in simply going along for the ride. He has limited mobility and post moves, but the Lakers need something to shave off some of the frontline's minutes so they remain fresh and healthy. 

3. Quickly understand concepts. Another reason Smith appeared tentative last season was his admitted lack of understanding the triangle offense. His own abilities aside, it's going to be easier to understand Mike Brown's system because it's a traditional open-court offense and everyone will also go through a similar learning process. 

4. Practice hard. All accounts say he provided the necessary practice intensity bench players need to provide to keep the starters honest. There's no reason that should change. 

5. Provide positive locker room presence. Smith has become dispensable because his abilities never quite matched the expectations that came with being the first pick in the 1995 draft. But he's remained in the NBA for so long partly because teams know he brings little risk in ruining locker room chemistry. For the Lakers, that meant shaking everyone's hands before player introductions and becoming one of the team's most educated hip-hop fans.


Joe Smith maintains positive attitude in limited role, indulges passion for rap music and collecting hats

Lakers Report Card: Joe Smith

Joe Smith shows eagerness fitting in with the Lakers

--Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at

Lakers Report Card: Joe Smith

6a00d8341c506253ef014e86b164b8970d-320wiIn this the 13th edition of the Lakers Report Card we focus on reserve forward Joe Smith.

Grade: D

Everywhere he went, Lakers forward Joe Smith wore a smile on his face.

He smiled when he shook hands with the Laker starters during introductions. He smiled as he wore his headphones in the locker room, shaking his head to various rap songs. And he smiled anytime he interacted with a teammate, team official or reporter.

But a cheerful expression was about all the Lakers got out of Smith, whom they acquired Dec. 15, 2010, from New Jersey for Sasha Vujacic and a 2011 first-round draft pick. All accounts say he practiced hard. He didn't drastically mess up in the 3.7 minutes per game that he averaged. And the 15-year veteran brought the right attitude, getting along with everyone and providing positive energy.

But that won't make a big difference in his grade. What struck me about Smith was that he seemed perfectly content with his lot -- a 1995 NBA Draft pick who became a moving part in the league, holding the NBA record for most franchises played for (12): the Golden State Warriors (1995-98), Philadelphia 76ers (1998), Minnesota Timberwolves (1999-2000), Detroit Pistons (2000-01), Timberwolves again (2001-03), Milwaukee Bucks (2003-06), Denver Nuggets (2006), Chicago Bulls (2007-08), Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-09), Cleveland Cavaliers (2008-09), Atlanta Hawks (2009-10) and New Jersey Nets (2010). Likewise, the Lakers appeared in no rush to get him acclimated with the triangle offense and to be able to eat up serious minutes so that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum could rest. 

From a practical standpoint, the Lakers whiffed on trading Vujacic and the team's first-round pick. The team could've used Vujacic's intensity in practice and ability to be an irritant at defense since the team didn't have much of an edge all season. The Lakers could surely use that first-round pick to bolster their roster following a disappointing playoff finish in a four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. At the time, I lauded the move -- I thought the Lakers would make better use of Smith to help handle their dwindling frontline depth, and also I believed Vujacic had become irritating to many in the Lakers  organization.

There's no denying the Lakers' main motivation in acquiring Smith. The trade, in which the Nets also sent Terrence Williams to Houston, allowed the Lakers to save money. Vujacic was making $5.5 million in the last season of a three-year, $15-million contract he signed in 2008 with the Lakers; Smith's salary was $1.4 million this season. But for all the bemoaning regarding Pau Gasol's increased fatigue level during Andrew Bynum's rehab, the Lakers surely had an opportunity to develop Smith so he could help offset that problem.

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Exit Interviews: Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Luke Walton, Joe Smith, Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter and Trey Johnson

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson

Lakers forward Lamar Odom

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Breaking down the Lakers roster entering the playoffs


Forward Ron Artest

When he wasn't celebrating the 2010 NBA championship, Artest spent plenty of time this off-season slimming down to 250 pounds and limiting his alcohol consumption in the hopes he could keep up with speedy players such as Kevin Durant. That effort has proven to be a mixed bag, but the way he defends the opposing team's best player will likely prove to be the X factor in a series.

It's crucial that Artest play the game the right way. When he doesn't have a superstar player to defend, Artest sometimes appears bored on team defense. When he is defending a top scorer, sometimes the matchup distracts him from basic duties, such as help defense. Then there's of course the offense, where running a fast break and any shot attempt immediately prompts Staples Center to let out a collective gasp.

But there have been spurts, particularly since the All-Star break where Artest has played the right way. Aside from his tenacious and aggressive defense, he's become a more reliable option offensively since the All-Star break with his points per game and shooting percentage eclipsing his season average. It all points to Artest becoming more aware and appearing more engaged. Strangely enough, Artest thrives more when he's not over-thinking what he has to do on the court. As everyone knows with Artest, he's a wild card and it'll be hard to gauge what he'll truly bring. There's no point in unraveling the enigma that is Ron Artest, but for better and/or worse, his playoff performances will surely be memorable.

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Lakers Q&A: Joe Smith maintains positive attitude in limited role, indulges passion for rap music and collecting hats

Joe SmithThis is the fifth post in an occasional series of Q&As with a member of the Lakers organization.

Below is a recent conversation with Lakers backup forward Joe Smith, whom the Lakers acquired Dec. 15, 2010 from New Jersey for Sasha Vujacic and a 2011 first-round draft pick. He holds the league record with Chucky Brown, Tony Massenburg and Jim Jackson for most franchises played for (12),including the Golden State Warriors (1995-98), Philadelphia 76ers (1998), Minnesota Timberwolves (1999-2000), Detroit Pistons (2000-01), Timberwolves again (2001-03), Milwaukee Bucks (2003-06), Denver Nuggets (2006), Chicago Bulls (2007-08), Oklahoma City Thunder (2008-09), Cleveland Cavaliers (2008, 2009), Atlanta Hawks (2009-10) and New Jersey Nets (2010)

From a basketball standpoint, what have you gotten out of being a Laker so far? I’ve enjoyed being on the team that competes the way we do. It hasn’t been perfect, but at the same time as of late we’ve been competing and playing the best type of basketball I’ve seen this team play from afar for years.

I noticed you have assumed Josh Powell’s role last year where you shake everyone’s hand before the starters step on the court. What do you think that does? That’s something that I’ve been doing for maybe half of my career. Every team I’ve been on, especially as of late for the last five or six years where I’ve been coming off the bench and I haven’t been starting. It’s something that I just picked up on. It’s a last-second, ‘let’s-get-'em’ before the tipoff. I look at as when you see a veteran as long as I have out there, it should be something that gets everybody going. Usually it’s a younger guy and the last guy you might see is a guy in the first couple years in the league, but when you see a veteran that’s been around and into it as anybody out there, I think it feeds into everybody.

What role, at least from what they tell you, do Phil [Jackson] and the rest of the coaching staff envision for you? We haven’t really talked about that. I guess we’re still trying to get a feel for each other. I’m picking up the offense more and more every day. Defensive schemes are something I’ve always known. The defense is no problem. Just trying to be as ready as I can whenever my number is called. As much as I do want to play, I understand this team already has a rotation. We have Lamar [Odom], Pau [Gasol], Andrew [Bynum] and that’s a rotation that he’s been going with. As long as we win, I’m good.

You’ve talked a lot about learning the triangle offense to be an ongoing process. Where are you with that? I’m pretty close. There’ still some terminology I have to listen very closely to in order to unscramble it and put it in basic basketball terms. Other than that, I’m pretty close. We go through the triangle every day, in shootaround, practice. Whether it’s three-on-three or four-on-four, whatever it is, we use some form of the triangle. I’m picking it up in all types of angles. It’s now having to do it without thinking about it. I hate to be out on the floor and having to think about a lot of things. It takes you a second behind once you have to think about it. Now it’s just being able to be out there and read and react. That’s something that will help me out a lot once I really get it down.

Do you feel settled yet in L.A.? Not all the way. When I first moved into my place we went on a 12-day, 13-day trip and then it was the All-Star break. We had a day here and then went to Portland. I’m still trying to get settled in my home. But it’s good to have a home to go to. I’m still waiting for my car to get here. I still have some stuff in New Jersey that I’m getting shipped out. Everything is happening slowly but surely.

And you just rent at this point? Just rent. I did the buying thing earlier in my career. After a while it gets hard to get the houses off your shoulder, especially nowadays.

When did you stop buying and start renting? The last home I purchased was in Milwaukee [in 2003]. I stopped purchasing houses and started renting. We found a place in Arizona and that’s where my family got established there. It made it easier for me to uproot my stuff than having to uproot wife and kids and everybody. I rent everything. I rented in Denver, Chicago, Oklahoma, Cleveland, Atlanta, New Jersey and rent here.

You hold the record for the most franchises played for. How do you handle that? A lot of people might look at it as a negative thing. But I look at it as a blessing. First of all, to be able to stick around for so long and be able to adjust my role on different teams where my worth is appreciated. A lot of guys I’ve seen come and go throughout this league. For me to be able to stick around and play with so many teams and so many players and meet so many people, it’s been a blessing for me.

You came in as the No. 1 draft pick in 1995 out of Maryland and averaged double digits in your first few seasons. Then you were traded multiple times. What was the process in coping with that? The first time I got traded was tough. The first time is always the toughest. Then after that, a few times I signed as a free agent. But most of the time I have been traded. I look at is as a new opportunity every time now. I don’t take it as personal or a negative like I used to.

How do you explain what happened with Minnesota? [Following the 1999-2000 season, the NBA discovered Smith and then team executive Kevin McHale were involved in a salary cap tampering scandal. Smith was allegedly promised a future multimillion-dollar contract if he signed with the team for below market value, prompting the league to void the last year of his contract, fine Minnesota $3.5 million and take away from the team five first-round draft picks]. That was something that was out of my control. I was a young guy and was kind of being misled at the time. It was pretty much out of my control. That’s something I don’t look back at or hold a raincloud over my head because I didn’t have too much to do with that.

Reflecting back do you feel that affected your standing in the league? It opened my eyes a little bit more. It made me feel a little more as if I couldn’t trust certain people as much as I thought I could. It takes a lot of time to have trust in certain people. Other than that, it’s water under the bridge. I went to Detroit for half a year and then went right back to Minnesota. It showed my appreciating with the Timberwolves and how much they appreciated what I brought to the team.

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