LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers equipment manager Carlos Maples' job was easier this time around.
Usually when the team signs a free agent late in the season, Maples has to scramble to get a uniform made up in time for the player's arrival. Since the Lakers already had plenty of Andrew Goudelock's old No. 0 jerseys in stock, all Maples had to do Sunday was sew on a Dr. Jerry Buss commemorative "JB" patch onto one of them.
Goudelock was called up from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA D-League on Saturday and completed the paperwork to sign with the Lakers for the remainder of the season just about an hour before tipoff of their game against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
The 6-foot-2 combo guard, who was selected by the Lakers with the No. 46 pick in the 2011 draft and waived during training camp this season, just feels good to be back.
"This is like home for me," Goudelock said. "This is the first place I played in the NBA, and for me to be able to come back, it was surreal for me. When I got the call, I didn’t even know [what to think]. I was just looking at my coach for like five minutes, like, ‘Are you serious? Are you playing with me?’ So, this is a surreal feeling. I just want to take advantage of it."
Goudelock was informed by Vipers coach Nick Nurse before their playoff game against the Maine Red Claws on Saturday.
"I’m just doing my regular thing and my coach comes out," Goudelock recalled. "‘You’re not playing today.’ I’m like, ‘Am I in trouble?’ He’s like, ‘No, the Lakers called you back. So you got to leave in the morning.’"
Goudelock arrived in Los Angeles from Houston around noon on Sunday and got to the arena at 3 p.m. for a crash course with assistant coach Dan D'Antoni.
"We went over just some basic things, but he said most of it is just playing," Goudelock said. "They said if you don’t shoot, [D’Antoni] gets mad. That’s right up my alley."
Goudelock did plenty of shooting in the D-League. In 51 games (all starts) with Sioux Falls and Rio Grande Valley this season, Goudelock averaged 21.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.16 steals in 36.9 minutes. Goudelock, who said he lost 15 pounds since training camp in part because of dedicated training and in part because his meager D-League salary didn't allow him to eat like he did when he was with the Lakers, thought the experience made him a better player.
"The D-League is definitely tough," Goudelock said. "From the pay, to the travel, to dealing with different guys, different personalities, different coaches -- it’s definitely a learning curve.
"It definitely sucks to have to leave the NBA, leave all this and then go there. Then you think you deserve to be called up, you think that you deserve to be in the NBA, but it doesn’t happen. You just have to wait. You just have to wait and wait and wait, and it’s devastating, but when it does happen, words can’t really explain how you feel. And I feel like I got so much better, it’s almost like I’m getting a second chance here. Whereas when I first came in, I didn’t know that much. This time I’m coming around and I know a lot."
D'Antoni knows that Goudelock is a capable NBA player who had a four-game stretch in his rookie season during which he averaged 11.5 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 57.1 percent shooting on 3-pointers (8-for-14) in 20.8 minutes, and the Lakers went 3-1.
"He can play and he can make shots. That’s the biggest thing," D'Antoni said. "That was the thinking [that he can create his own shot] and also he can go into the playoffs with us [because he is eligible]. He’s comfortable here and he can make shots."
Goudelock had other opportunities overseas in China, Russia and Puerto Rico, and there was even some flirtation by the Memphis Grizzlies, but somehow his journey took him back to L.A. when Kobe Bryant, the guy who dubbed him the "Mini Mamba" last season, went out with a season-ending Achilles tear.
"It’s just surreal," Goudelock said. "You never think you’ll be back here, and then you’re back here."
"You got to pay a lot of attention to the Lakers because it’s always on TV," Goudelock said. "As soon as you turn on ESPN, it’s the first thing that comes on TV. It just seems like something is happening every day, something different."
He did not anticipate the Lakers struggling the way they have.
"This is the most talent that I’ve ever seen," Goudelock said. "I thought that it would be a lock that these guys would be at least in the top three or four [teams in the league]. So I was surprised. I didn’t know what to [think]. People would be like, ‘Maybe they need you back.’ And I’m like, ‘No, not me.’ But you never really know how things are going to turn out; I guess that’s why they play the game. You just can’t put a team together and say, ‘Hey, they’re going to be No. 1.’ They played the game and unfortunately things didn’t turn out as well as everybody wanted them to, but they still have a chance to make the playoffs, and the playoffs is a new season."
And for Goudelock, it's a new chance at an NBA career.
"You never really know what’s going to happen in this business," Goudelock said. "People keep telling you that, people keep telling you that, and you never really believe it until stuff like that happens to you."