Theo Ratliff expected to return to full practice after Lakers' two-game trip next week
Lakers backup center Theo Ratliff participated in conditioning drills Thursday with the rest of the team's reserves, and is expected to return to full practice after the Lakers' two-game trip against Dallas (Jan. 19) and Denver (Jan 21).
The Lakers are expected to have a day off from practice when they return Jan. 22 to Los Angeles, so Ratliff's first full practice since having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Nov. 17 could be as early as Jan. 23.
"It's good to be able to get out on the floor, run and sprint again," said Ratliff, who described Thursday's session as the most intense since spending the past three weeks working on individual strength training, conditioning and on-court exercises. "It's always a blessing anytime I'm able to step out there."
Ratliff's absence, which the team originally estimated would last four to six weeks, had a marginal statistical impact considering his averages of 0.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.63 blocks in 8.4 minutes in eight games he played this season. His injury, however, coincided with the last month of Andrew Bynum's rehab on his surgically repaired right knee and further depleted the Lakers' thin front line. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson played Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom heavy minutes and granted rookie Derrick Caracter an increased role, an option Jackson usually avoids with rookies.
"It's always stressful," Ratliff said. "As a player, you want to be able to play. That's always been an issue for me. I know it goes with the territory. You risk doing that anytime you step out on the floor. It's something I dealt with and continue to deal with and continue to bounce back. I look forward to bouncing back this time."
In other news: the Lakers plan to have co-captains Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher present former Laker Jordan Farmar with his 2010 championship ring before Friday's game against New Jersey at Staples Center.
-- Mark Medina
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