He wasn’t smiling because he scored 20 points and was the leading scorer on the Lakers for much of the game.
He wasn’t smiling because the D-League MVP trophy he was given before the game was sitting right behind him, placed in a cardboard box that looked like it had just been shipped to him overnight.
And he wasn’t smiling because Metta World Peace was teasing him about being surrounded by dozens of reporters and cameras.
He was smiling because he was simply sitting in an NBA locker room again.
Not bad for a guy who went from making about $475,000 last season to borrowing money from his college girlfriend to pay his bills last month.
“I’m broke,” Goudelock said. “I’m cool. Nobody would know that I’m broke. I just come here with a smile on my face.”
It’s an unusual confession for an NBA player starting in the playoffs to make, but Goudelock wasn’t even in the league two weeks ago.
Goudelock, who was a second-round draft pick of the Lakers in 2011, was cut Oct. 27 prior to the season opener. He ended up being drafted by the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-League and later traded to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, where he averaged 21.4 points and won the D-League MVP, an award he didn’t even know existed before he won it.
Less than two weeks ago, the Lakers signed him for the final two games of the regular season and playoffs after Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon.
“This business just keeps getting crazier,” Goudelock said. “I wouldn’t think I’d be here two weeks ago. Nothing happens the way it’s supposed to happen. This is a great opportunity, going from the D-League a week and a half ago to starting in the playoffs. It shows you the nature of the business.”
Business wasn’t so good for Goudelock after being cut by the Lakers. Despite playing well in front of dozens of fans in cities like Bakersfield, Calif.; Canton, Ohio; and Erie, Pa., Goudelock was living paycheck to paycheck after finishing up his rookie salary.
“I was so broke I had to borrow money,” he said. “I’ve had the same girlfriend since college, and I had to call her to give me money and she’s still in college, but I didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t want to call my parents. I’m too old for that. Some days I couldn’t even eat, and she sent me money. It’s definitely an experience I’m going to tell my kids about.”
Goudelock made about $1,200 every two weeks while he was in the D-League, and his per diem was $40. Before the Lakers left for San Antonio for a four-day trip, his per diem was slightly different.
“When I got my per diem, I was the happiest guy in the world. It was $500!” Goudelock said. “I took that! That’s like half my check in the D-League. … You go to the D-League, and you basically lose money. I used to tell people I might as well work at Burger King or do something else, but it all pays off.”
Goudelock didn’t want to bother his parents with monetary requests while he was struggling this season, but after he called to let them know he would be starting Friday, they surprised him at the game by getting on the first flight they could from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
“It took them a lot of money to come here, but I’m glad they’re here,” Goudelock said. “I’m glad they got to see me play.”
As Goudelock talked about his experiences on the road, on buses and sleeping on floors, he smiled again as he looked across the locker room at Darius Morris. He and Morris were both selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA draft by the Lakers, five picks apart, but didn’t want to have anything to do with each other when they both got to Los Angeles.
“We really didn’t like each other,” Goudelock said. “We would compete all the time, and we ended up being real good friends. We never thought this would happen.”
No one thought this would happen. Bryant’s injury might have brought Goudelock back to Los Angeles, but injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks catapulted him and Morris into the starting lineup Friday. Goudelock had 20 points and three steals while Morris added 24 points and six assists.
“Every time we look at each other we say this is crazy,” Goudelock said. “When we first got here, I don’t even think we spoke to each other. It was a completion thing. In training camp, I said that’s the enemy, but as time went on, we were doing this together and we got really, really close.
"When I was in the D-League, he would text me and call me and ask me about certain situations. He had my back just like I had his. I’m just glad that we get this opportunity to go out and play together.”
This was certainly not the way Goudelock and Morris wanted to get their moment in the playoff spotlight. They began the season as third stringers in a backcourt behind Bryant, Nash, Meeks and Blake, but if this season has taught them anything, it’s that nothing ever goes exactly the way you plan it. Goudelock wouldn’t have it any other way.
"For a guy like me, I've been through so many different types of situations, and it seems like I'm always the one that gets the short end of the stick,” he said. “But, you know, I always just try to keep a smile on my face, keep my head up, and you know you're always going to be where you're supposed to be. If you're working hard, if you're really working hard and you want something, you're going to get there. Nobody is going to be able to stop you from getting there whether you get the short end of the stick or not."