Webber takes part in talks

Times Staff Writers

Free-agent forward Chris Webber has become personally involved in talks with the Lakers about joining the club, according to his agent, Aaron Goodwin.

Webber spoke Saturday with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and was hoping to talk Saturday night to Coach Phil Jackson. Goodwin said he had talked Friday with Kupchak.

Playing time, not money, appears to be the issue for Webber with the Lakers, because two of the other four teams courting the 33-year-old power forward can offer him more money.

"If Phil can convince [Kupchak] to make a decision," Goodwin said, "maybe something can be done."

Goodwin couldn't resist taking a playful jab at Jackson, who had complained Friday night that Goodwin hadn't returned calls to the Lakers, playfully questioning why Goodwin didn't have more than one cellphone.

"Chris will be calling Phil on his cellphone," Goodwin said. "That is, if he has a cellphone. I guess he didn't know we had talked to Mitch several times [Friday]."

Webber was averaging more than 30 minutes a game with the Philadelphia 76ers before they waived him Thursday. When Lamar Odom (sprained knee) and Kwame Brown (sprained ankle) return to the lineup, probably by the end of the month, and with the effective play of Luke Walton, Jackson will already have his hands full trying to find minutes in the front court for Brian Cook, Vladimir Radmanovic and Ronny Turiaf, all of whom have had their moments of effectiveness.

Asked if Webber would be a starter if he signed with the Lakers, Jackson dodged the question Friday night.

"I think, if a player can contribute," Jackson said, "that's all he wants to know."

Webber, a five-time All-Star now in his 16th season, also has expressed interest in joining Detroit, Miami, Orlando and Dallas. The Heat has its full mid-level exception, worth about $5 million. The Magic has about half its mid-level exception. The Lakers, Pistons and Mavericks have all used their mid-level exceptions.

The Lakers could offer Webber a two-year contract worth about $2 million.

Monday is the first day Webber can formally sign with a team.

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Following the Lakers' 109-106 victory Friday night over the Magic, Jackson gave the Lakers Saturday off. Practice will resume today in preparation for Monday's game at Staples Center against the Heat.

Shaquille O'Neal, who had knee surgery in November, is practicing, but he said Saturday there is "zero" chance he will play against the Lakers.

The Heat is wrapping up a six-game trip against the Lakers and O'Neal could return Thursday when Miami faces Indiana.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

steve.springer@latimes.com

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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