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Category: Theo Ratliff

Lakers talking to free agent Jake Voskuhl

Voskuhl_300 In search of a big man to add to an ever-thinning front court, the Lakers have talked to the representative for free agent Jake Voskuhl, a 6-foot-11 center known for his physical play.

Voskuhl, 33, did not play in the NBA last season. He was invited to the Clippers' training camp this season but was cut in favor of reserve center Jarron Collins.

With Andrew Bynum out until around Thanksgiving and Theo Ratliff out at least four to six weeks after knee surgery, the Lakers need a player down low.

"The Lakers are a great situation," said Voskuhl's agent, Mark Bartelstein. "Any time they call, you're certainly going to listen. Hopefully something's going to happen."

Voskuhl was close to being signed by a couple of teams last season and mulled some offers in Europe, but he sat out the season in part because his wife was having a baby, Bartelstein said.

"He's stayed in shape," Bartelsetin said. "There's no doubt he can help an NBA team."

Players cannot be signed to 10-day contracts until later in the season, but the Lakers can sign Voskuhl to a non-guaranteed contract on a weekly basis.

Voskuhl has played for five teams in a nine-year career. The Lakers consider him to be an active defender and rebounder despite career averages of 3.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocked shots a game.

-- Mike Bresnahan

Photo: Jake Voskuhl during Clippers' media day in September. Credit: Jayne Oncea / US Presswire

Five things to watch in Lakers-Bucks matchup

1. Will the Lakers' focus come back?

After appearing completely dialed in for the first seven games of the season, the Lakers (8-2) at times in the past three contests have appeared to be going through the motions. Whether it was playing down to Minnesota, lacking front-line help against undersized Denver or refusing to fully contest Phoenix's hot three-point shooting, the Lakers' energy level has taken a dip. That's somewhat predictable given the initial adrenaline to start the season and the newcomers wanting to prove they can fit in, but I thought that the decreased focus wouldn't happen this soon.

With the Lakers facing Milwaukee (5-5) today at 5 p.m. at the beginning of a three-game trip, the change of scenery alone could have a psychological affect. The Lakers have played seven of their 10 games at home, while the three road contests have only been isolated events. Since the Lakers have a game at Detroit Wednesday and at Minnesota Friday, this will mark the team's first extended trip this season.

A large chunk of road games can prove taxing on a team, particularly in the middle of the season when injuries, fatigue and boredom can reach alarming highs. But I've heard anecdotally from various teams that I've covered in both college and pro ranks in the past few years that it becomes easier to win on the road after a flurry of home games because all the daily responsibilities at home aren't there and the team feels in complete work mode during the first extended trip.

Coach Phil Jackson supported that sentiment, and it comes at a good time since the team is coming off a two-game losing streak.

"The challenge of playing on the road will help us as a team, regardless of how we go about it," Jackson said. "It just helps a team focus on themselves and get themselves together and recognize the importance of playing a defense together."

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Lakers' reserve center Theo Ratliff expected to sit out four to six weeks

After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Lakers reserve center Theo Ratliff is expected be sidelined from four to six weeks.

That means Ratliff could miss 15 to 21 games, if not more, beginning with Tuesday's 5 p.m. matchup at Milwaukee.

Ratliff has played a marginal role since joining the Lakers this offseason, averaging 0.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.4 minutes per game, but his absence further depletes a thin front line. Lakers center Andrew Bynum has remained absent while rehabbing from offseason surgery on his right knee, though he's expected to practice next week.

Though both Lakers forwards Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have averaged double doubles, they rank first and second in minutes played. Odom also had an MRI Monday on his sore right foot, which showed he has a bone bruise.

-- Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Five things to take away from Lakers' 112-100 victory over Sacramento Kings

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1. Kobe Bryant has an historic night.It's fitting that in the Lakers' 112-100 victory Wednesday over the Sacramento Kings, Bryant surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's franchise record for career minutes (37,492) the same night he recorded his 17th career triple double. Usually, Bryant's heavy basketball mileage leads to suggestions that he's becoming damaged goods, but Bryant clearly showed at Sacramento that he'll return to true form as his surgically repaired right knee improves. His 30-point performance on nine of 22 shooting with 12 assists and 10 rebounds perfectly sums up the complete player has become.It's also fitting that in an otherwise sloppy game among both teams, Bryant's impressive play still stood out.

Bryant showcased his improved rhythm this way: He cut to the nearside, received a pass from Derek Fisher, squared up for a three-point shot and drew a foul on Kings guard Tyreke Evans for the four-point play. He sprinted into the lane and leapt for an alley-oop lob from Matt Barnes. And Bryant cut to the far side, pump faked, lofted a shot over Kings guard Luther Head and drew a foul, with the shot hitting the front rim, bouncing off the backboard and dropping into the net.

Bryant illustrated his sharp court vision this way: He threw a no-look pass to Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who went in for a one-handed dunk. On another play, Bryant drove through traffic and then kicked the ball out to the nearside perimeter for Odom to nail a triple. Bryant lofted an alley oop lob to Pau Gasol. And he boxed out Kings forward Francisco Garcia for a rebound before throwing a cross-court pass to Barnes for a layup just as the first-half buzzer went off.

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Caught in the Web: Reactions to Lakers' 107-83 victory over Golden State Warriors

57233270Game stories

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan notices the Staples Center crowd and the Lakers themselves performing the wave during L.A.'s 107-83 victory Sunday over the Golden State Warriors.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding credits the Lakers for not becoming complacent.

--The Riverside Press-Enterprise's David Lassen issued a memo to the Golden State Warriors: "As rules of engagement go, this may be right there with not bringing a knife to a gunfight. Letting the Lakers starters hit full stride in a run-and-gun game? Probably not your best option."

--The San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons explains how Stephen Curry's absence affected the Warriors in their loss to the Lakers.

--The Daily Breeze's Elliott Teaford argues that very little has slowed down the Lakers.

--The Oakland Tribune's Marcus Thompson II explains how the Lakers overwhelmed the Warriors.

Notebooks

--The Times' Bresnahan lists the things the Lakers are focusing on to prevent boredom.

--The Riverside Press-Enterprise's Lassen explains how the Lakers' bench still has work to do.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin notices that Lakers center Theo Ratliff has an energy drink bearing his name.

--The Daily Breeze's Teaford explains how Lakers Coach Phil Jackson is motivating his team.

Sidebars

--The Times' Broderick Turner explains how Pau Gasol has carried more of the workload thus far in the Lakers' season.

--The San Francisco Chronicle's Simmons reports that the Warriors haven't offered a contract extension to forward Brandan Wright.

--The Oakland Tribune's Thompson documents the shooting struggles of former Laker Vladimir Radmanovic.

Columns

--The Times' Mark Heisler looks at the difficulty the Lakers face in pacing themselves for a long season.

--The Orange County Register's Ding reports that Lakers owner Jerry Buss will support revenue sharing. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' McMenamin wonders why Earl Lloyd hasn't garnered more attention for breaking the NBA color barrier nearly 60 years ago.

--Fox Sports' Billy Witz argues that the Lakers already look like the best team in the Western Conference.

Blogs

--ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky breaks down the Lakers' victory over Golden State. Andy and Brian Kamenetzky also feature post-game video.

--NBA.com's Sekou Smith details Kobe Bryant's growing relationship with Gasol.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell breaks down the team's victory.

--Lakers Nation's Daniel Buerge recaps the Lakers' victory.

--Silver Screen and Roll's DexterFishmore enjoys the Lakers' blowout.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Phillip Barnett credits Lakers forward Lamar Odom for setting the tone early.

Other links

--ESPN.com's Marc Stein remains impressed enough with the Lakers play to keep them at No. 1

--Golden State of Mind's Fantasy Junkie breaks down the Warriors' loss.

Tweet of the Day: "Artest can't resist. He just stood up from his seat on the bench as the Wave swung around to his side of the arena." -- KevinDing (Orange County Register's Lakers beat writer Kevin Ding)

Reader Comment of the Day:"I'm loving the maturity this Lakers team is showing so early in the season. They understand that their goals right now are to iron out all the bugs and chemistry issues before worrying about being tested by the bigger teams in the Western Conference" -- OCisMambaCounty

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Kobe Bryant, left, makes a pass in front of Golden State guard Monta Ellis during the Lakers' 107-83 victory Sunday at Staples Center. Credit: Jayne Oncea / US Presswire

Five things to take away from Lakers' 114-106 victory over Phoenix Suns

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1.Kobe Bryant continues to make progress on his right knee. - This isn't because Bryant scored a team-leading 25 points on a nine of 19 clip in the Lakers' 114-106 victory Friday over the Phoenix Suns. It's because his minutes (34) and involvement in other areas (seven rebounds, three assists) shows he's returning to his normal self. Another sign that Bryant's making progress is he seemed to enjoy matching Grant Hill's hot shooting (21 points on 10 of 17 shooting) and testing the foul limits. The next development I'm interested in seeing entails how Bryant's body responds next week when the Lakers play four games, including Sunday against Golden State, Tuesday against Memphis, Wednesday at Sacramento and Friday against Toronto.

2. Pau Gasol shows leadership All pre-season Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has prodded Gasol into taking charge of the team. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, he gathered together Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Steve Blake together and appeared to give them advice. The Lakers entered the quarter leading 90-79, but no lead against Phoenix ever feels safe, considering the Suns shot 44 of 93, went nine of 24 from three-point range and featured five players cracking double digits, including Hill (21), center Robin Lopez (18), shooting guard Jason Richardson (17), backup guard Goran Dragic (15) and Jared Dudley (10) as well as nine assists from Steve Nash. Gasol helped the Lakers secure the win by dishing out five of his team-high nine assists in the fourth quarter, including plays that led to two Barnes' three-pointers, feeding Bryant and Lamar Odom inside for layups and finding Derek Fisher open for a jumper. Oh, and he also contributed with 21 points on 10 of 17 shooting with eight rebounds, falling short of the triple double.

Gasol's shooting stroke looked very smooth, resulting in numerous mid-range J's. His footwork remained unstoppable resulting in a left hook over Lopez. And his patience in letting the play develop while posting up paid off numerous times.

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3. Lamar Odom isn't missing a beat - KCAL-9 Lakers analyst Stu Lantz correctly observed that some fans take for Odom's contributions for granted. It's easy to fall into the trap with this game because he's provided all throughout the training camp. He had a field day against Hedo Turkoglu in the post and on the perimeter, scoring 18 points on eight of 12 shooting, along with 17 rebounds and five assists. After nailing a three at the top of the three in the second quarter, he grabbed a rebound and fired an outlet pass, resulting in a Shannon Brown layup. He drove the lane one time and immediately noticed traffic so he kicked it out to Bryant for the open shot. And he relentlessly owned the boards against an undersized Phoenix team, most notably when he grabbed a rebound off an Artest missed shot and converted on an off-balance layup.

Although he's recorded seven turnovers in the first two games, Odom avoided getting into foul trouble against Phoenix, which prevented Jackson from having to play Theo Ratliff heavy minutes as well as give rookie Derrick Caracter playing time.

4. The Lakers continue to show trust in their bench - It's amazing to already see the work Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak put in this offseason already reap the benefits. Shannon Brown provided another energy game, scoring eight points on four of eight shooting, while Barnes had 11 points, including three of four from three-point range. Blake, Barnes and Brown entered the game late in the third quarter, and partly contributed to the team going on a 9-2 run to create a 87-79 cushion. Barne made a key defensive rebound that resulted in Blake converted from long-range, and Brown stole a poor Dragic pass resulting in a thunderous two-handed slam. Clearly, Jackson has confidence the bench can secure and widen leads, and it's also clear that Sasha Vujacic's zero minutes through two games will prove to be the norm rather than the exception this season.

5. The Lakers show potential to be a better three-point shooting team than last year: It's only two games so obviously this statistic remains far from definitive. But the Lakers' 47.9% mark from three-point range shows the team has better personnel to shoot from three-point range than last year's team, which went 34.1% from the field. Barnes finished three of four from three-point range, Blake and Bryant went two of five, Artest went three of eight, Fisher hit one of two and Odom nailed his sole attempt.

It's going to be a nice skill for the Lakers to acquire considering that wasn't their biggest strength last season, and it's going to give teammates fits considering how dangerous the Lakers frontline usually shows. The Lakers should approach the game, however, looking to get the ball in the lane and post first, before settling for outside. Working inside-out instead of outside-in will also help the Lakers' perimeter shooters develop a better rhythm as well.

Stat of the Night: 1,100. The number of wins for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who became the fastest coach in NBA history to achieve such a feat.

Quote of the Night: I'm a great rebounder." -- Lakers foward Lamar Odom to KCAL-9's John Ireland

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives down the lane against Suns point guard Goran Dragic in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Matt York/Associated Press

Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom looks to pass over the defense of Suns forward Hedo Turkoglu in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Matt York / Associated Press

Five things to watch in Lakers-Suns matchup

570842801.What kind of minutes will Kobe Bryant provide? -- Though Lakers Coach Phil Jackson maintained he would limit Bryant's minutes at the beginning of the regular season, he said he'd remain flexible about Bryant's playing time,  based on his comfort level and game situations. In the Lakers' 112-110 season-opening victory Tuesday over the Houston Rockets, Bryant scored 27 points on eight of 20 shooting in 37 minutes, a significant improvement in both shooting percentage and minutes compared to his preseason stat line of 12.6 points on 28.2% shooting in 21.6 minutes per contest.

Without citing specifics, Jackson said he may alter Bryant's minutes in the Lakers' (1-0) game Friday in Phoenix (1-1) because they host Golden State at home Sunday, leaving Bryant less room for recovery time.  

 2. How will the Suns look without Amare Stoudemire? - Stoudemire's departure to New York this off-season because of free agency prompted Suns guard Steve Nash to publicly doubt the team's chances of making the postseason.

"To be honest, if I was outside this picture and a betting man, I would probably pick us to be outside of the playoffs, considering all the changes and the new guys, Nash told the SB Nation Arizona's Seth Pollack.

Of course,  Bryant doesn't feel bad for Phoenix's off-season adversities, including losing Stoudemire to free agency and Leandro Barbosa in a trade.

"Good. We'll beat the hell out of them," Bryant said. "That's not my problem. We beat them in the playoffs last year, but they used to kick our butt all time in the playoffs. So I have no sympathy."

The Lakers offered many opinions on how much Stoudemire's departure affects the Suns, considering he averaged 25 points last season in the West Finals against the Lakers and partly contributed to Andrew Bynum getting in foul trouble. Bryant pointed out the Lakers won't have to "double-team a guy in the post." Jackson observed Stoudemire's penchant for high-percentage shots inside that he created, thanks to how perfect he and Steve Nash ran the screen and roll will no longer be an issue, considering center Robin Lopez has struggled so far replicating that same chemistry with Nash. And Lakers forward Derek Fisher actually argued the absence could prove more difficult, considering the Lakers' defense would have to space out more since Hedo Turkoglu, Channing Frye, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill  and Josh Childress can play from the wings.

"I'm sure at times, they'll miss the physicality and power Amare played with, Fisher said. "But I think as time goes on, their ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter complements Nash's penetration ability. I think it'll balance out a little bit. Teams like ours, it may be tough, because you got to have size in the middle, but catching us without Andrew Early and Theo [Ratliff] banged up a little bit, we'll still have to go in there and get some work done."

Although it's one game, Phoenix forward Hakim Warrick demonstrated in the Suns' 110-94 victory Thursday against the Utah Jazz that he knows a thing or two about the screen and roll. All the various contributions tie into what Phoenix Coach Alvin Gentry has described as a "continuity offense." Though the Lakers won't have to worry about Stoudemire, the Lakers still have issues. The Lakers' front-court remains fairly thin with Andrew Bynum rehabbing his right knee, backup center  Ratliff nursing a sore left knee and Derrick Caracter remaining understandably raw. Still, the Lakers should hold their own against Phoenix, which conceded 18 offensive rebounds in its 106-92 season-opening loss Tuesday to Portland.

"The combination between Stoudemire and Nash has been great in the last two years so that'll be a little timing," Jackson said. "But Phoenix will still be a good team."

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Lakers vow ring ceremony won't distract them from regular-season opener

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The lights will go off. Another banner will be placed in Staples Center. And every member of the Lakers' staff will receive their championship ring from last season's successful playoff run.

The rings will symbolize various championship totals among various Lakers. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson will have to figure out where to put his 11th ring, since all his 10 others fit two full hands of fingers. Lakers guards Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher will complete one hand with their fifth ring. Lakers forwards Pau Gasol,  Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, center Andrew Bynum and guards Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic still have enough room on one hand with their two rings. Ron Artest will temporarily see his before raffling it off to raise proceeds for mental health charities. And then there's newcomers, such as Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, who will stand as outsiders but no doubt view the ceremony as something they hope repeats next season.

Regardless of the varied backgrounds among the Lakers' roster, one universal truth remains. They all insist the ring ceremony Tuesday at Staples Center won't consume them once the Lakers tip off their season opener against the Houston Rockets. With an off-season consisting of numerous club appearances, a Dodgeball tournament and getting pulled over in a race car, Artest could've definitely been speaking about himself when he said, "We celebrated enough." Fisher less dramatically noted how the ring ceremony and the game are "two separate things." And Gasol noted the necessity to "focus real quick."

"It's important to do that," Gasol said after practice Tuesday at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "I've seen some games after a ring ceremony where the champion has paid that price. I've seen games where the team did a good job in regrouping and refocusing and taking care of business."

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Phil Jackson says he will determine Kobe Bryant's playing time in season opener during game

With Kobe Bryant continuing rehab on his surgically repaired right knee, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said he remains flexible on how much he'll play him during the team's season opener Tuesday against Houston.

"We'll see how it goes," Jackson said Monday after practice at the team's facility in El Segundo. "I just talked to him, and he said he's comfortable playing over 30 minutes. We'll see how it goes in the course of a game."

Bryant didn't speak to reporters after Monday's practice, but he described his knee as "good" after Sunday's practice and replied "sure" with a hint of sarcasm when asked if he could play 40 minutes.

Bryant's rehabilitation efforts coincided with a limited preseason during which he scored 12.6 points on 28.2% shooting, 17.2% from three-point range as well as three assists in 21.6 minutes per contest. He also sat out in the Lakers' 120-99 victory Thursday over the Golden State Warriors in San Diego. Though he progressively improved in terms of mobility and rhythm, Bryant's seven for eight third-quarter effort in the Lakers' 99-94 loss Oct. 17 to the Utah Jazz served as the small bright shot in an otherwise poor shooting effort.

With Bryant likely matching up against lockdown defender Shane Battier, the Lakers' opener against Houston should provide a revealing glimpse on how much progression Bryant needs to make to return to full form.

"We're as prepared as we can be at this particular time," Jackson said. "Obviously we don't have Andrew [Bynum] and Kobe's coming off a situation which limited his participation ... This is OK. We know that this is part of getting ready for the season and we'll have members of our team back and ready in a couple of weeks."

In other news, Lamar Odom and Theo Ratliff both practiced Tuesday and are expected to play. They both missed the Lakers' preseason finale in a 105-102 overtime win Friday over the Golden State Warriors, with Odom nursing a sore left thumb, tight back and hurt nose and Ratliff suffering a swollen left knee.

-- Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com.

Breaking down the Lakers' roster

56964814-1Lakers forward Ron Artest

2010 preseason stats: Artest appeared in all eight games, averaging 10.8 points on 43.8% shooting in 26.9 minutes per contest, and went 10 of 24 from three-point range (41.7%).

Outlook: Artest entered training camp weighing 250 pounds, and the decrease in weight has benefitted his mobility and speed. It's almost a given Artest will thrive defensively, but what stood out this training camp was his improved shooting stroke and greater understanding of the triangle.

Artest mostly likely will be looked upon to lock down the opponent's top scorer, but it should be comforting for the Lakers that he seems to understand better what he's doing on offense. It doesn't look as though the championship, the off-season celebrations or the recent accolades regarding his work on behalf of mental-health causes have distracted or drained him. Though Artest seems to feel more confident than last season, he's just as hungry and determined.

Lakers forward Matt Barnes

2010 preseason stats: Barnes appeared in all eight games, averaging 6.4 points on 44.4% shooting in 19.9 minutes

Outlook: Barnes' self-criticism that he hasn't grasped the triangle as fast as he wants to speaks more to his pragmatism, honesty and hunger than any glaring weakness in his game. Sure, Barnes is still learning. But he has shown he's capable of filling a jack-of-all-trades role in terms of making hustle plays, playing physical defense and occasionally hitting the outside shot.

He's going to be an important piece, considering Bryant will be limited to some degree at the beginning of the season, and Barnes could play either the two or three. That versatility also will help give Artest some rest.

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