Lakers to Announce Signing Today of Free Agent Orlando Woolridge

Times Staff Writer

No, Magic Johnson isn't going to Edmonton as part of the Gretzky deal. But the Forum's other tenants made a deal Tuesday, too.

The Lakers have called a press conference for this morning to announce they have signed free agent Orlando Woolridge, a 6-foot 9-inch forward, to a contract for the 1988-89 season, according to a team source. It is believed that Woolridge, 28, agreed to a deal that will pay him close to $500,000, which is about the maximum the Lakers were allowed under salary-cap restrictions.

Much of that money became available when Kurt Rambis signed as a free agent with the expansion Charlotte Hornets last month.

Woolridge, a seven-year veteran who has played with the Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets, was with the Nets until he was suspended last February for drug-related problems. He subsequently enrolled in a drug rehabilitation clinic in Van Nuys and has undergone follow-up treatment for the past six months. He was paid $1.2 million by the Nets last season.

In Woolridge, the Lakers are getting a proven scorer off the bench, as well as insurance in the event James Worthy's knees continue to be a problem. Woolridge's best season was 1984-85 with the Bulls, when he averaged 22.9 points a game.

General Manager Jerry West would not confirm Woolridge's signing, but he said Tuesday night: "We're pleased. We're hopeful this will give us another player who will give us help.

"We had three things we wanted to do (in the off-season), and two of them are accomplished."

Those three things, in no particular order, were to acquire another ballhandling guard, which they did in drafting David Rivers; pick up some scoring off the bench (Woolridge), and find another big man, an unresolved issue.

"If possible, we'd like to think we can get that accomplished," West said.

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