| Lakers Reporter
Oct 22 2010 11:38PM
On paper, the 2010-11 Lakers should be even better than the team that won the NBA title in each of the past two seasons.
Wait … how is that possible?
It’s not like a team can do better than winning a
championship, of course, but it certainly can play better basketball
along what Phil Jackson often refers to as "the journey.”
Whether or not motivation can be drawn from what Jackson says will be
his last season as coach, the one in which he searches for his
remarkable fourth three-peat, remains to be seen.
But an obviously improved bench, a potentially better team vibe and
better health could quite tangibly lead to improved basketball. More
specifically, free agents Steve Blake and Matt Barnes couple with
rookie Devin Ebanks to boost the pine crew, a more veteran team than
last year’s has a better chance to focus only on the court, and
other than Andrew Bynum (likely out until the end of November at the
earliest), it’s a healthy group of Lakers. More wins could
result, but will the regular season be more about "playing the
right way” towards victories, or simply trying to get to the
playoffs as fast and as healthy as possible?
To delve more deeply into the roster, we looked inside the box score
for each player, summarized detailed individual scouting reports from
assistant coach Jim Cleamons and offered an X-factor pertaining to all
14 players on L.A.’s roster.
Below are the guards, forwards & centers.
Box Score & More
Fisher averaged 7.5 points on 38 percent shooting with 2.5 assists in
27.2 regular season minutes per game and bumped up to 10.3 points on
44.8 percent from the field with 2.8 assists in 32.8 postseason
minutes. He shot 36 percent from three in the playoffs.
- 11 – Points scored in the fourth quarter of Finals Game 3 in
Boston by the co-captain, helping L.A. regain home-court advantage.
- 13 – Players in the history of the NBA that have more rings than Fisher’s five.
- 413 – Straight games played by the Arkansas native, who hasn’t missed one since April 13, 2005.
"He’s the best point guard we have.
It’s very simple. He has the most discipline, understands what
we’re doing, is very competitive and knowledgeable and he knows
the line forms behind him. What else do you want from a leader? We have
impeccable trust in Fisher. He’s our guy. End of
X-Factor = LEADERSHIP
Fisher is the undoubted emotional leader of the Lakers. While Kobe can
inspire by example and through bad cop technique, it’s his fellow
1996 Draft classmate that sets the tone verbally throughout the season
and particularly in the postseason. L.A.’s coaches are quick to
warn against judging Fisher’s sparse offensive output, which to
them only signifies that his focus is on setting the table for more
talented offensive options. So important to Bryant was Fisher’s
re-signing that No. 24 spoke with him daily throughout the free agency
Box Score & More
Blake appeared in 80 games for Portland and the L.A. Clippers last
season, averaging 8.6 points, 4.8 assists and 2.3 rebounds for the
Clips in 27 minutes per game.
- 1 – Triple-double in his career, a 23-point, 10-rebound,
11-assist effort against the Lakers on April 14 (a.k.a. "good
timing for the free agent to be”).
- 13 – Blake’s 2009-10 NBA rank for assist-to-turnover ratio (2.97).
- 43.7 – Blake’s three-point percentage for the
Clippers last season, which matches Sasha Vujacic’s 2007-08
"In a nutshell, Steve is a solid pro. He
understands the game, he’s going to do what he can do to help the
team win and he understands that’s where his bread is buttered.
He’s going to be a good teammate, and he has the basketball and
athletic skills to back up that mental side. I think he and Fish will
play well off each other, and there are times that they could play
together. You don’t want to leave either one alone, because they
can both stretch the defense and also handle the ball.”
X-Factor = BASKETBALL IQ
Within a week of training camp, Phil Jackson acknowledged that Steve
Blake had picked up the triangle offense faster than nearly anyone he
could remember aside from hoops savant Pau Gasol. The thought is that
Blake will be able to run the team’s second unit effectively
thanks to a combination of that hoops IQ and his selfless attitude,
which has already endeared him to L.A.’s locker room. In other
Blake news, the Maryland National Champion (2002) boasts athleticism
that’s far better than you thought it was.
Box Score & More
First, his 2009-10 awards haul: Finals MVP (2), First-Team All-NBA (8),
All-NBA Defensive First Team (8) and All-Star starter (12). Now, the
numbers: 27 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.55 steals in the
regular season; 29.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.35 steals
in the postseason, including 11 of 12 straight games with at least 30
- 6 – Where Bryant will rank on the NBA’s all-time
scoring list by the end of the season if he comes even close to his
scoring average from the past three campaigns (about 27 points per).
He’s already fourth all-time in playoff points.
- 7 – Game-winning field goals dropped by Bryant last season.
- 49 – Three-pointers hit by Bryant in the 2010 playoffs, a career high, on 131 attempts (37.4 percent).
"Knowing him the way I do, he’s going
to sit back and figure out what he needs to do and when he can take
over. He’s a thinker. He’s looking, he’s observing
and until he gets 100 percent, who knows what he’s going to bring
on a nightly basis other than making sure we get that W. We all know
what Kobe can do … he’s the best closer in the league, and
who really cares about the rest of the numbers? He’s got the
rings, and that speaks volumes right there.”
X-Factor = HEALTH
Generally the offseason is a time for Bryant to pick a specific area or
skill he’d like to add to his game. In 2009, for example, he
worked with Hakeem Olajuwon on his post game, and proceeded to have his
best career season on the low block. This past offseason, however, was
all about getting healthy, and Bryant spent the entire summer and early
fall rehabilitating his right knee after arthroscopic surgery. The
Lakers, of course, need their best player healthy to three-peat, and
his daily progress throughout the preseason was certainly an
encouraging sign that the NBA’s most well-maintained body should
be primed for 2010-11.
Box Score & More
Brown’s regular season minutes jumped from 7.6 in the 2008-09
regular season after getting traded to L.A. in February to 20.7 minutes
in the 2009-10 regular season, when he posted 8.1 points on 42.7
percent shooting with 2.2 rebounds. In the playoffs, his minutes dipped
back to around 14.0 per contest, in which he averaged 4.9 points.
- 13.1 – Additional minutes per game played by Brown last
season compared to his first two months in L.A. after being traded from
Charlotte in February of 2009.
- 16.4 – Brown’s scoring average in seven 2009-10 games he started in the absence of then-injured Kobe Bryant.
- 41 – Times Brown violated airspace around the country
with absurd in-game dunks, his 44.5-inch vertical and huge mitts
serving as enablers.
"Shannon came back from the summer, and I
teased him saying he looked big like a defensive back. Thus far
he’s doing well. If we can just get him to shoot the ball in
rhythm, take his open shots and knock them down, he could have the
world by its tail. Rather than putting the ball on the floor, just
catch and shoot. Don’t worry about trying to get to the cup on
every possession. Get to the cup in transition, and if a guy takes away
what we call your direct line, take the little 15-footer over the top
of him. If that’s not there, move the ball on. He’s done
this well in training camp.”
X-Factor = ATHLETICISM
Born and raised in Maywood on the West side of Chicago, Brown is the
only Lakers player from the Midwest. The East (Artest, Bynum, Caracter,
Ebanks, Odom, Bryant) and Atlantic (Blake), South (Fisher and Ratliff),
West Coast (Walton and Barnes) and Europe (Gasol and Vujacic) are all
better represented. Regardless of where he learned the game, Brown can
be an X-factor on the floor this season for L.A. through his elite
athleticism, which is unique on the Lakers. Well, just not too
much of it, as suggested by Cleamons. In non-related, off-the-court
Brown news, the Michigan State product recently confirmed that he is
engaged to singer Monica.
Box Score & More
Vujacic struggled with injuries and a lack of playing time throughout
the 2009-10 season, averaging 2.8 points and 1.2 rebounds in 8.6
minutes per game. He missed the first two rounds of the playoffs with a
severe ankle sprain and saw limited duty thereafter.
- 2 – Critical free throws converted by a cold-off-the-bench Vujacic in the final seconds of Game 7.
- 18 – Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rank of Vujacic’s Russian fiancé Maria Sharapova.
- 30.9 – Vujacic’s regular season three-point
percentage in 2009-10, two seasons removed from his 43.7 percent in
2007-08 success rate, a Lakers single-season franchise record.
"Sasha has to learn that it’s not all
about putting the ball in the basket, but, ‘What do I need to do
to get on the floor.’ He might be able to play some three at
times, or some two. Sasha’s defensive activity can get under some
opponents’ skin, and he can be aggressive. He has the skills, but
it can’t all be just spotlighted at the offensive end. His
contributions at the other end as well will affect the playing time
that he gets.”
X-Factor = ...DEFENSE?
Sure, the Lakers would love Vujacic to find the three-point range that
helped him earn his "Machine” moniker two seasons back. But
shooting aside, who knew Phil Jackson could deploy him as a defensive
agitator off the bench, set free to harass and annoy opposing guards
for short or long bursts of time? The Slovenian is long and quick
enough to stay with most perimeter players, and also has an advanced
understanding of how to chase players around screens, since he’s
run off them himself for years. In other words, while known early in
his career as a shooter, it’s on the defensive end where Vujacic
may be able to carve out additional minutes, at least on a team needing
minutes for Bryant, Fisher, Blake and Brown in the back court.
Box Score & More
The Spaniard, who made his second straight All-Star team and was named
to the All-NBA Third Team despite missing 17 games, averaged 18.3
points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.74 blocks on 53.6 percent
shooting in the regular season and 19.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.5
assists and 2.09 blocks on 53.9 percent shooting in the playoffs.
- 8 – Gasol’s scoring rank in NBA history amongst
international players, with 12,192 points, an average of 18.8 per game.
Ahead of him? Hakeem Olajuwon, Dirk Nowitzki, Detlef Schrempf, Steve
Nash, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic.
- 40 – Double-doubles for Gasol in 2009-10 in 65 games.
- 91.7 – The Lakers’ playoff winning percentage
since acquiring Gasol in February of 2008. That’s 11 series wins
and two championships to just one loss, in the 2008 Finals to Boston.
"Why wouldn’t you think he is the best
all-around big man in the league? He’s one of the most skilled
players in the league regardless of size. I tell my friends all the
time that he should have more touches. Simply put, he does good things
when the ball is in his hands. That’s the type of player you want
to have the ball, because teammates will cut harder knowing they have a
better chance to get the ball back. These are the things that promote
good team chemistry, because even if you didn’t get it back, it
was because he made a better basketball decision. That allows you to
X-Factor = SKILLS
Cleamons had this one pegged once again, as Gasol’s skill set is
simply unfair for a legit seven-foot big man: he can score with either
hand from any angle down low; his jump shot is pure out to 18 feet; he
can put the ball on the floor and drive right or left; he has a hook
shot with either hand; he goes up-and-under; he can finish through
contact; he makes free throws … and so on. Meanwhile, Gasol has
increasingly used his size to impact games defensively (particularly
late in games), holding up just fine one-on-one with Orlando’s
Dwight Howard in the 2009 Finals, and blocking a career playoff high
2.1 shots in the 2010 playoffs. With the "soft” questions
that stuck to both Gasol and Odom after L.A.’s 2008 Finals loss
now firmly answered to the contrary, it’s tough to find any holes
in the Catalan’s game.
Box Score & More
averaged 10.8 points and 9.8 rebounds with 3.3 assists in the regular
season, playing in all 82 games while starting 38 times as Pau Gasol
and Andrew Bynum missed 17 games apiece. Odom high-stepped up his
averages up to 9.7 points, 8.6 boards and 2.0 assists in the
postseason, and was impactful defensively throughout the season.
- 13 – Months Odom’s been married to Khloe Kardashian;
Odom regularly appears on her family’s show on E! ("Keeping
up with the Kardashians”).
- 717 – Career games it took Odom to reach 6,000 rebounds
and 3,000 assists, the 8th fastest of any player in league history.
- 1,021,201 – Twitter followers for L.O., by far the most on the Lakers.
"I think he’s gotten stronger as a player, but with his
(summer spent playing in the World Championships), he has to continue
to take care of himself so he doesn’t get worn out. He’s
been a little more active, a little more aggressive, both of which I
like. But in general, you just gotta love L.O. He lays it out there,
and no matter how much he does, people always want him to do more. I
just smile at that. We know he’s going to come play when it
counts, that he’s going to get us all-around production. He gives
us as coaches a great deal of flexibility because he’s a natural
mismatch. Fours are too slow, threes are too small, and as he’s
gotten older, Lamar realizes how he needs to play. He plays the two,
three, four … whom are you going to put on him? It’s a
problem for opponents.”
X-Factor = THE GLUE
As Cleamons said, "Guys just like Lamar … he’s a
wonderful teammate.” In fact, it’s not just teammates and
coaches that like Odom, but also the team’s staff and even the
media (he was nominated for the Magic Johnson Award given by the Pro
Basketball Writers Association), typically a tougher crowd to win over.
Why does his personality actually matter to the Lakers? With
Odom’s light-hearted, gregarious disposition, he finds a way to
connect with every player on the roster from Kobe Bryant to Derrick
Caracter, at once keeping the team together and loose through the
toiling season. In Odom’s case, "The Glue” could
refer to his role on the actual basketball court due to his ability to
play all five positions and contribute across the board statistically.
Box Score & More
He averaged 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals in
the regular season, and 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5
steals in a postseason in which his primary responsibility was on
- 1 – Championship ring earned by Artest, but that’s not
stopping him from auctioning it off for charity upon receiving it.
- 20 – Points scored by Artest in Game 7 of the NBA
Finals, during which he also hit a crucial three-pointer with a minute
left in the game and added five steals.
- 35.5 – Artest’s shooting percentage from
three-point range last season. Not bad, but still a five-point dip from
his 40.0 the previous season.
"I think Ron will be more comfortable because
he’s more familiar with what we do and how we do it. We
don’t really look at numbers, because it’s a total game,
and overall I think Ron did very well last year. Sure, you wish some
time he’d make more jump shots, but I think he’s going to
be more productive this year. I can’t think of any other player
you’d rather have to play one-on-one defense in the NBA for what
we do and how our team has been constructed. His on-the-ball defense
and the pressure he puts on with his hands is just very good.”
X-Factor = STATE OF MIND
During his introductory press conference with the Lakers, Artest boldly
declared that if the team did not defend its 2009 title, blame him. The
St. John’s product carried that weight while struggling at times
on offense throughout the season, but nonetheless managed to step up
when he was most needed in the playoffs by: holding Kevin Durant 13
percent below his regular-season field-goal percentage; providing
perhaps the play of L.A.’s playoffs by tipping in Kobe
Bryant’s air ball to win Game 5 against Phoenix in the Western
Finals; scoring a season-high 25 points in the clinching Game 6 against
Phoenix; and finally appearing to be the only Laker not affected by the
intense pressure of Finals Game 7. Then came the celebratory (to say
the least) postgame press conference and a great summer in which he
reveled in newfound positive attention. Artest’s happy, loose
state of mind has carried into the preseason, during which he’s
played much more comfortably on offense without losing any of his
trademark defensive edge.
Box Score & More
Starting at the three for Orlando, Barnes averaged 8.8 points and 5.5
rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game. In the playoffs, his minutes dipped
slightly to 23.3, in which time he averaged 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds.
- 8 – Teams upon which Barnes has played in his nine-year
career (Clippers, Kings, 76ers, Knicks, Warriors, Suns, Magic and
- 28 – Touchdown catches during his senior year at Del
Campo High in Sacramento, to lead the nation as an All-American. His
brother Jason plays wide receiver in the Canadian Football League.
- 36 – Barnes’s career-high scoring output (1/03/07 @ Memphis).
"Matt is a competitor. I think that he will help us in our
defensive schemes because he wants to play, he wants to prove himself
and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s worked to be where
he is as a pro, and he sees that better days are ahead of him. He wants
more success … and he’s a good fit. As he becomes more
comfortable in our system, he’ll expand his game as the year goes
on, and as he does he won’t have to rely only on a jump shot but
can work into the offense in other ways.”
X-Factor = BENCH STOPPER
L.A. already has the luxury of boasting two of the NBA’s best
perimeter defenders in its starting lineup in Artest and Kobe Bryant.
But with the offseason acquisition of Barnes, Mitch Kupchak got a
player who took that role for Orlando, a team that boasted the
league’s second-best record. In other words, there will rarely be
a time in which at least one of the Artest/Bryant/Barnes combo
isn’t on the floor, quite a defensive luxury for Phil Jackson.
Box Score & More
Walton, bothered throughout the 2009-10 season with a bad back, managed
only 9.4 minutes in 27 games played, averaging 2.4 points and 1.4
assists. He appeared in 16 playoff games, averaging 6.0 minutes per
- 3 – Players in Pacific 10 Conference history to leave with
1,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists, including Walton.
Also the number of father-son combinations to win the NBA title (Bill
and Luke Walton, Rick and Brent Barry, Matt and Matt Jr. Guokas).
- 11.4 – Points per game averaged by Walton in 2006-07,
when he played 33 minutes per game, adding 5.0 rebounds and 4.3
assists. Since then, his minutes have gone down yearly to 23.4, 17.9
- 55 – Games Walton missed in 2009-10 due to a pinched
nerve in his back. He tweaked his hamstring in preseason, but says his
back feels "great” so far.
"Luke knows how to play. We talk about Pau
Gasol being a facilitator, but if Luke has the ball in his hands and
you’re open, you better be looking for it. If it’s not
there, it’s because he saw something that wasn’t on, like a
quarterback that saw a linebacker coming across the middle. He’ll
just tell you he’ll get you next time. Luke’s bigger than
what you think he is, so he can handle some smaller fours and threes,
and he’s going to make something good happen with the ball in his
X-Factor = FACILITATING
It’s Walton’s biggest strength, the thing that makes Phil
Jackson wish he were healthy enough to play with his second unit. But
will Walton be healthy and effective enough to earn regular minutes on
perhaps the league’s most crowded wing with Bryant, Artest and
Barnes occupying minutes? In fairness, the University of Arizona
product has been unable to contribute much in the past few seasons due
to various injuries centered around his back. But teammates enjoy
playing with Walton, who has always been a pass-first player thanks to
growing up playing games with shot hungry older brothers. In addition
to his pass-first nature, Walton has the height (6-9) to see over the
top of most passing lanes, and has demonstrated the type of basketball
IQ that can develop growing up with a Hall of Fame dad, allowing a
relative mastery of Jackson’s triangle offense … if he can
just get onto the basketball floor.
Box Score & More
The 20-year-old Ebanks played two seasons at West Virginia, averaging
11.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 69 games. Ebanks was named
to the Big East All-Rookie team as a freshman and to the All-Big East
Third team as a sophomore.
- 3 – Lakers from Queens, New York City, on the roster,
including Ebanks (Ravenswood), who grew up just minutes away from Ron
Artest (Queensbridge) and Lamar Odom (Jamaica).
- 16 – Career double-doubles for Ebanks at West Virginia,
as he led the Mountaineers in rebounding in each of his two seasons.
- 51 – Years passed between West Virginia’s last
NCAA Final Four appearance in 1959 (thanks to Lakers legend Jerry West)
and 2010’s trip to the National Semi Finals.
"I think he’s going to grow. We all
like his length, his ability to get out and run. Young kids always have
a lot of energy, and we’ll probably need it in some games.
He’s big enough to play some four and usually three, but I also
think he’s athletic enough to play against some big twos if we
want to go to a funky lineup.”
X-Factor = YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE
It’s been a few years since the Lakers have had an impact rookie,
with apologies to Sun Yue (2009), and not a single rookie last season.
Due in part to L.A.’s finishing at or near the top of the league
standings for the past three years, you have to go back to 2006-07,
Jordan Farmar’s rookie year, to find a notable contribution. And
despite Ebanks falling all the way to No. 43 in the second round, early
indications are that his length, athleticism and ability on the glass
from the wing may force Phil Jackson into playing him despite the
presence of Ron Artest, Matt Barnes and Luke Walton on the wing.
Box Score & More
Bynum averaged 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.45 blocks on 57 percent
shooting in 30 minutes per game in a mostly healthy regular season (65
games played), and contributed 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds with 1.57
blocks in 24 minutes per playoff game while playing through a meniscus
tear in his right knee.
- 76 – L.A.’s winning percentage when both Pau Gasol and
Bynum were in the starting lineup last season, compared with 59 percent
when one or both didn’t play.
- 96 – Regular season games Bynum has missed due to
injury in the past three seasons after playing in all 82 games in
- 124 – Dunks by Bynum in his 65 games, good for the
third highest average in the league (1.9 per game) and seventh most
overall. That helped him rank fifth in the NBA in field goal percentage
"I think he will come back healthy. Four years ago, ‘Drew
probably wouldn’t have been mature enough to play through the
injury, but I think he has grown. When we get him healthy, when our
team is 100 percent, I think he’ll come back and make an
immediate impact. You don’t want guys to get hurt, but when you
have a solid foundation in terms of how you want the team to play, they
can cover for a little bit, so we want ‘Drew to be fully healthy
when he comes back. ‘Drew is a tall, big human being. The quicker
he realizes how good he can be, and that marinates in his mind, his
length plus the things he can do around the basket are unique.”
X-Factor = GAMES PLAYED
Simple fact: when Andrew Bynum is healthy, the Lakers don’t lose
much. It shows in the statistics, and has been proven when it counts in
the playoffs. It’s no coincidence, in other words, that L.A. has
won the last two championships with Bynum shoring up the paint at both
ends, and lost in the 2008 Finals as he watched, helpless, in street
clothes. This because there are few other big men alive that have the
New Jersey native’s combination of skill and sheer size, as Bynum
has displayed with consistent stretches of 20-and-10 basketball when
he’s been fully healthy (e.g. late Feb. - March 2010, Nov. 2009,
late Jan. 2009 and so on). Of course, "being fully healthy”
has been the tough part for Bynum. L.A. has generally been able to
compensate thanks to the rare luxury of being able to plug Odom in
alongside Gasol, and they’ll do it again until Bynum returns from
offseason knee surgery (July 28) in late November or early December.
The Lakers no doubt hope Bynum will then play like they know he can in
every game onward … but the 22-year-old knows he has to prove it
on the court.
Box Score & More
Ratliff opened the 2009-10 season in San Antonio, playing limited
minutes in 21 games, before being traded to Charlotte. There he started
26 of 28 games, averaging 5.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks
before contributing 11.8 minutes per game in Orlando’s first
round sweep of the Bobcats.
- 6 – Kids at home for Ratliff and wife Kristina: Adonis, Darius, Stacia, Yasmeen, Alexis and Sasha.
- 9 – Jerseys worn by Ratliff since being drafted in 1995 by Detroit, one more than Matt Barnes but in six more seasons.
- 1,963 – Career blocked shots for Ratliff, good for 18th
in NBA history. Only Shaquille O’Neal (2,690, seventh), Tim
Duncan (2,235, 11th), Marcus Camby (2,140, 12th) and Ben Wallace
(2,032, 16th) have more swats amongst active players.
"Theo can take care of the basket, but you
don’t want him to have to do it night in and night out. You have
to get a feel for what shots he likes to block and how he likes to
block them, and funnel guys to him so you don’t wear him out.
Drew (Bynum) doesn’t block shots (like Theo) yet, so one of the
things that Drew will learn from Theo is how to do that.”
X-Factor = THE SWAT
Ranking 18th all-time in the history of the NBA in any category is
pretty impressive, and the Lakers have already gotten a glimpse of how
Ratliff got there in the preseason. In 85 minutes through the
team’s first six games, Ratliff blocked eight shots, which looks
better when compared with Gasol’s nine blocks in 177 minutes.
While the Lakers have no plans to put the 37-year-old Ratliff on the
floor for any extended amount of time, opponents have to respect his
domain – the paint, of course – whenever he’s out
there. Perhaps more importantly, as Cleamons described, is how much of
the Wyoming collegiate’s shot blocking may rub off on Bynum.
Box Score & More
Caracter averaged 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27 games as a junior
at the University of Texas at El Paso, ranking 16th in the country in
field goal percentage (56.7 percent). In 53 games at Louisville in his
first two years (14 starts), Caracter averaged 8.2 points and 4.3
- 0 – Television shows watched by Caracter. He prefers to music and reads books.
- 1 – New Lakers teammate with whom he’s already
been on a team, fellow rookie Devin Ebanks, as the two played for the
New York Panthers (AAU). Both were top prospects nationally.
- 58 – Draft pick used by Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to
select Caracter. It’s rare for a pick that late to make an NBA
roster, particularly that of a defending champion.
"Right now he’s probably more of a five
than a four. Collegiately, that’s the spot he played, and
it’s tough to get a young kid who has built his whole career
being the largest one to play in other ways outside of the post. His
instincts are going to kick in, so that five is going to be hard to get
out of him. Hopefully by the end of the year, he’ll be able to
play four as well, depending on what we need, but we also need to just
let him define himself based on how he plays on the floor. He chases
the ball at the offensive end, and if you don’t put it away, he
could very well get you an extra possession.”
X-Factor = SIZE
With the typical skill set of a center, Caracter does lack the typical
height of an NBA center at 6-9, but has flashed an ability to score on
the interior regardless. Still, particularly in the absence of Andrew
Bynum for at least the season’s first month, and with Theo
Ratliff’s inability to play big minutes at the age of 37,
Caracter may find himself with the rare opportunity to play as a rookie
second round pick. Whether or not he adjusts to being the biggest guy
on the floor through college to often the smallest at his position in
the League should determine how many minutes he’ll actually get.
One thing L.A.’s coaches have liked regardless of how well
he’s scoring the ball or matching up defensively:
Caracter’s ball-hawking style on the backboards at both ends.