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Theo Ratliff works nearly a full practice

January 23, 2011 |  1:49 pm

Lakers backup center Theo Ratliff participated in most of the team's practice Sunday in full-court, half-court and transition drills, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. It was the most practice time for Ratliff since he underwent arthroscopic surgery with a partial meniscectomy on his left knee two months ago.

Although he said Ratliff "did pretty good" in Sunday's session, Jackson said he couldn't specify when the 37-year-old veteran would return to full practice, saying it depended on how Ratliff was on Monday. The team had expected Ratliff would return to a full practice soon after the Lakers' two-game trip last week against Dallas and Denver.

"He's probably not going to be in the rotation," Jackson said. "But he's going to be necessary."

That's because the Lakers value Ratliff, not so much for his stats, considering his averages of 0.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.63 blocks in 8.4 minutes in eight games. It's more the moving pieces that his return will set into motion. As soon as Ratliff returns to full practice, the Lakers expect to send rookie backup center Derrick Caracter to the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League.

Even though the team's front-line depth has been restored since Andrew Bynum's return a month ago, Jackson said he needed someone who could eat minutes in case they get into foul trouble. Lakers forward Joe Smith and Caracter are options in that regard, but Jackson's remained reluctant because they're still learning the offense.

"What he brings to practice is important too," Jackson said. "A lot of times, people don't understand that. His experience and ability to contest and change things up make us work a little bit harder."

Meanwhile, Lakers forward Matt Barnes spent part of his 11th day of rehab, after surgery on a lateral meniscus tear on his right knee, shooting free throws at the tail end of practice. "It's the first time I touched a ball," he said briefly before going into the trainer's room. "It feels pretty good." Barnes then tweeted, "Day 11 rehab. Made good progress 2day lifted weights worked out the elliptical & got on the court & put some shots up. NO DAYS OFF. GRINDN!!" 

-- Mark Medina

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