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Derrick Caracter wants to sharpen preparation

January 7, 2011 | 10:25 am

Immediate thoughts of regret swirled in Derrick Caracter's head once Lakers Coach Phil Jackson asked him to check into the lineup.

Caracter wasn't exactly expecting this to happen in Nov. 17 game against Detroit where he'd check in for Pau Gasol with the Lakers holding a 33-23 lead with 35.8 seconds remaining in the first quarter. It's entirely conceivable for Jackson to insert Caracter in the lineup then toward the tail end of a quarter, but with all his lamenting Jackson expressed early in the week about Gasol's fatigue, Andrew Bynum's seemingly never-ending rehab efforts surrounding his surgically repaired right knee, Theo Ratliff's arthroscopic knee surgery and the Lakers' unwillingness to acquire a backup center, Caracter had sat on the bench the entire game the previous night in Milwaukee.

Part of the thinking for the zero playing time pointed to the Lakers'  plan to save more minutes for Caracter against Detroit the next night on a back-to-back.It also wasn't exactly surprising since Caracter lacks experience, but it's revealing nonetheless, particularly since Ron Artest experienced problems with his hip during the game and Gasol logged 44 minutes. Jackson would also say he didn't want to set up Caracter to fail and deflate his confidence if the increased role didn't pan out well.

The unpredictably surrounding Caracter's playing time, however, also exposed his failure to properly prepare. He said he stayed up the previous night in his hotel room watching movies and talking on the phone, thinking he wouldn't need much rest since he wouldn't play much anyway. But after logging 15 minutes and 24 seconds the next night, Caracter quickly realized the faulty logic behind his faulty approach.

"My whole body and everything I knew I needed to do I wasn't able to perform as well," said Caracter, who had six points on three of five shooting and five rebounds but was part of a unit that allowed a 21-point fourth-quarter lead to shrink to 13. "My legs were so heavy and I didn't get enough rest the night before. I won't let that happen again."

While anticipating switching spots with rookie forward Devin Ebanks with the Bakersfield Jam fairly soon, Caracter says he's mainly learned in the Lakers' 36 games "what it takes to be a true professional." Generally speaking, Jackson describes Caracter as a "worker," credits him for arriving early to practice and for frequently engaging in off-court workouts. But it's little nuances such as Caracter's sleep patterns that prompted him to share this New Year's resolution prior to the Lakers' New Year's Eve game against the Philadelphia 76ers: "Continue to keep learning how to be the best professional I can be."

That means some of his worries go beyond improving his clip of 2.3 points in 6.2 minutes. He anticipates playing more minutes in the D-League for obvious reasons. The Lakers have liked his physical play, penchant for cleaning the glass and welcoming attitude, as demonstrated by his willingness to clean up towels and organize water bottles following practices. Jackson went so far to say that Caracter "will have a future in the game." But to make that next step, Caracter wants to fine tune some steps.

Approaching 2010, Caracter remembered vowing to abstain from Chinese food, something he often craves but acknowledged contributing to his long-term weight issues.  Caracter said he dropped from 305 pounds to 277 after his career with the Miners because of more sleep and selective eating habits. He worked with IMG pro/college training coordinator Don Barto to help him ensure a slim figure before the Lakers selected him with the 58th pick in the NBA Draft, and he eventually weighed in at 265 pounds once the Lakers finalized their 2010-2011 roster. But with the Lakers not guaranteeing they'll keep him after this season, Caracter's well aware of his next step.

"I'm blessed to be here and I don't want to stop here," Caracter said. "I want to continue keep getting better and make the dreams and thoughts that come to my mind every day come true."

--Mark Medina

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