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Newble is added for insurance

Times Staff Writer

Veterans are seemingly abundant for the playoff push and the Lakers joined the fray Friday, signing forward Ira Newble to a 10-day contract.

Newble, an eight-year veteran, averaged 4.3 points in 33 games this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics last month as part of the Wally Szczerbiak deal and later waived.

He said he toyed with a return to Cleveland, but thought otherwise after seeing a stockpile of players at the forward slot there.

“It was really not much of an opportunity there, so I figured I could come here,” Newble said. “Plus, they have a role that I feel I could fit. I want to come here, help the team, play some defense, bring some toughness, and they are about winning.”

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At 6 feet 7 and 220 pounds, Newble adds insurance at small forward in case Trevor Ariza’s broken foot is not healed in time for the playoffs.

“After Kobe [Bryant], Sasha [Vujacic] is our next guard defender and Kobe’s taken on most of the tough guys in the course of a game,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “We needed a two, small-three type of defender to go out there and play.”

Jackson said Andrew Bynum (left knee) continued work on an anti-gravity treadmill Friday and Pau Gasol (sprained left ankle) did some light shooting.

“We are still watching the progress as he goes through this next couple of weeks of building it up and watching it develop,” Jackson said of Bynum.

As for Gasol, Jackson said the chances of him playing in their home-and-home series against the Warriors are dim.

“That might be impossible for us to even remotely have that as a possibility, but I think in the next week there’s a chance he can come back,” Jackson said.

It seems Sir Charles has come around.

Charles Barkley has held no punches in criticizing Bryant in the past, labeling him as “very selfish” when he took few shots in the second half of Game 7 of a playoff series against the Phoenix Suns two years ago.

How times have changed. Enough so that Bryant is now Barkley’s MVP choice.

“If I was going to give it to somebody in the East, I would give it to Kevin Garnett because they’ve got the best record, but the West is much tougher, much better competition,” Barkley said on TNT’s telecast of the Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz on Thursday.

“Chris Paul has been a one-man wrecking crew. But Kobe Bryant is the best player we’ve got in the NBA. You’ve got an injured Bynum, working Gasol in and now Gasol is out, and to still have the best record in the [West], that’s why I would give the MVP to Kobe Bryant.”

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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