Lakers’ Joe Smith is excited to join his latest team

Even Joe Smith had to laugh, saying he had “lost count” of how many NBA teams he has played for over a 16-year career.

That would be 12 since the Lakers acquired him from New Jersey on Wednesday in a multiteam trade that sent Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic to the Nets.

Smith was an observer at the Lakers’ optional practice Thursday after he took a physical in the morning. He also got a quick tutorial on the triangle offense as the team prepared to play the 76ers on Friday night.

At 35 and in the last stages of a career in which Smith was the first overall pick in the 1995 draft, he had pondered whether his chance at winning an NBA championship had passed.

“I did. But I was still hopeful that something could happen that I could end up in a place like this,” Smith said about joining the back-to-back NBA champion Lakers. “I was excited when I got the phone call — kind of sad and excited.

“It’s kind of a two-way street. You are leaving a young group of guys you’ve grown close to. But at the same time you have to look at a bigger picture, especially at this point in my career.”


Smith played in four games this season for the Nets, averaging 0.5 points and 0.8 rebounds.

Smith is known as a versatile 6-foot-10 player who can play forward and center and is a good defender with the ability to knock down 15- to 18-foot jump shots.

“On the basketball court, [I’ll bring] the same energy I always brought throughout my career,” Smith said. “Defending, rebounding the ball, knocking down shots.”

Smith said he got an idea Tuesday he was part of trade talks but was not sure where he was going until his agent informed him. “I heard Los Angeles Lakers and I smiled the whole game,” Smith said, laughing.

Smith joked that the Lakers are the “first team I’ve been on with no [former] teammates on it.”

Things have already changed for Smith, who opened a Twitter account about a month ago. “‘I had 90 [followers] before yesterday,” he said “Now I’m like 1,100. … That’s the quickest turnaround ever.”

Bryant, Gasol off to quick start in All-Star voting

It wasn’t a surprise to see Kobe Bryant as the top vote-getter in the balloting released Thursday for the NBA All-Star game, which will be played at Staples Center on Feb. 20. But it was somewhat of a surprise to see that Pau Gasol would be a starter at forward if the voting had ended Thursday.

Bryant led the NBA with almost 723,000 votes and Gasol has almost 391,000 votes, trailing only Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant (471,000) among Western Conference forwards.

The voting doesn’t end until Jan. 23, meaning that Gasol, who has been starting at center for the Lakers, still has to fight off Denver forward Carmelo Anthony (370,000 votes) for a starting spot.

Lakers forward Lamar Odom (134,594) is seventh in the West and Lakers center Andrew Bynum (198,00), who has played in two games after recovering from right knee surgery, is a distant second to Houston’s Yao Ming (431,000) among West centers. Yao has a stress fracture in his ankle and is sidelined indefinitely.