Theo Ratliff and Derrick Caracter to have increased roles during Andrew Bynum's absence
The Lakers would have preferred not to be in this position, especially this soon. But they structured their roster so the team would be ready in case it happened.
With Lakers center Andrew Bynum expected to miss the entire preseason -- and in Phil Jackson's estimation the first two to three weeks of the regular season because of rehabilitation efforts after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this off-season -- the next two months should feature a lot of shuffling in the roster.
Afforded an entire off-season of rest, Pau Gasol will see more time on the floor. Lamar Odom, fresh off a stint with Team USA's FIBA World Championship run, in which he played center, could see time at the 3, 4 and 5 spots. And this could also give the Lakers an opportunity to see how more of a perimeter-oriented lineup would look when the size advantage doesn't prove to be a necessity.
But more than likely, Bynum's absence will lead to increased court time for rookie Derrick Caracter and 37-year-old veteran Theo Ratliff. Each of them enter this scenario in different circumstances.
"I just have to mentally focus in," said Caracter, whom the Lakers drafted out of Texas El Paso with their 58th pick. "Mentally, I have to do the same thing that got me here and do the same thing now and even more. Focus in on learning the triangle and the different options out of it, and stepping in and being confident."
"There's no pressure," said Ratliff, a 15-year veteran who signed with the Lakers this off-season for a one-year, $1.35-million contract. "I'm going to go out there and do the things I've been doing my whole career, play defense and make sure I stay in the offense."
Jackson seems uncertain as to how he'll structure their roles during Bynum's absence. He doesn't want to play Ratliff too long because of his age. But Jackson is unsure if that's possible if Caracter's not effective in the post. This won't make or break the team, per se. After all, if it comes down to it, Gasol and Odom can handle most of the load. But Ratliff's and Caracter's performance this preseason could dictate how comfortable Jackson will feel going deep into the rotation during the regular season and whether the Lakers have the depth to handle events such as another Bynum injury.
"That's really got to be played out," Jackson said. "We have to brace ourselves to bring this team along the right way and we'll find out who can play those positions."
The uncertainty stems from the fact that the Lakers value Ratliff more for his veteran leadership and defensive prowess than any offensive contributions. For example, Ratliff appeared to experience quite a challenge by the Lakers' younger frontline in Tuesday's practice. He even missed a dunk. The Lakers selected Caracter knowing his potential is still untapped, given his ongoing effort in shedding weight and improving his post work. He exhibited questionable ball handling during Tuesday's practices, but made effective moves, including an impressive reverse layup through a slew of traffic.
But those are just snapshots and don't provide anything definitive. An exhibition against Minnesota in London on Monday will provide more answers.