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2010-11 Season Preview: Guards, Forwards, Centers
Mike Trudell | Lakers Reporter Oct 22 2010 11:38PM


GuardsForwardsCenters

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.


DEREK FISHER

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.

Clem Says
"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 conversation.”

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 process.


STEVE BLAKE

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 Lakers record.

Clem Says
"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.


KOBE BRYANT

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 points.

  • 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).

Clem Says
"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.


SHANNON BROWN

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.

Clem Says
"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.


SASHA VUJACIC

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.

Clem Says
"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.


PAU GASOL

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.

Clem Says
"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 keep working.”

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.


LAMAR ODOM

Box Score & More
Odom 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.

Clem Says
"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.


RON ARTEST

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 defense.

  • 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.

Clem Says
"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.


MATT BARNES

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 Lakers).
  • 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).

Clem Says
"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.


LUKE WALTON

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 game.

  • 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 and 9.4.
  • 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.

Clem Says
"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 hands.”

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.


DEVIN EBANKS

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.

Clem Says
"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.


ANDREW BYNUM

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 2006-07.
  • 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 (57 percent).

Clem Says
"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.


THEO RATLIFF

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.

Clem Says
"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.


DERRICK CARACTER

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 rebounds.

  • 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.

Clem Says
"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.

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