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Lakers free up payroll, trade Mihm to Grizzlies

Posted Feb 19 2009 6:58AM

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers traded seldom-used center Chris Mihm to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, getting a future draft pick and a lighter payroll in the deal.

Mihm appeared in 18 games for the Lakers this season, averaging two points and 1.9 rebounds while playing 4.8 minutes per game for the overall NBA leaders. Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson indicated the club made the deal largely to trim its payroll while helping Mihm's chances of landing a better job next season.

"Hopefully it's a chance for him to play, show his wares," Jackson said before the Lakers' game against Golden State. "He's in a free agent year. ... He was doing the right thing, working hard. He cared about his game, cared about this team."

Mihm, the seventh overall pick in the 2000 draft, couldn't consistently crack Jackson's playing rotation despite the injury absence of fellow 7-footer Andrew Bynum, who could be out until May after tearing a ligament in his right knee Jan. 31. Mihm played 17 minutes in the Lakers' win over Atlanta on Tuesday night, but didn't play at all in Los Angeles' final game before the All-Star break.

Jackson wouldn't address speculation that the deal is a precursor to a bigger move for the Lakers, who began the night with the NBA's best record at 43-10. Instead, Jackson said financial concerns were a motivation in the Lakers' second trade of the month.

"In these economic times, it's important for teams to reach whatever their goals are," Jackson said. "We have a goal to be economically feasible as an organization. We ran a little bit heavy and deep, and now we're cutting back."

The Lakers received a conditional second-round pick in 2013 from the Grizzlies. The move should save Los Angeles about $2 million in salary and luxury tax considerations.

Los Angeles already swung another money-saving trade 11 days earlier, acquiring Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown from Charlotte for Vladimir Radmanovic in a deal that cut about $8.5 million in salary obligations.

Mihm will be the fourth 7-footer on the Grizzlies' roster, joining Marc Gasol, Darko Milicic and Hamed Haadadi, who's playing in the D-League. Memphis, well out of the playoff race at 15-38, played at Portland on Wednesday night.

The 29-year-old Mihm had his best season with the Lakers in 2005-06, when he averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds. His career was then interrupted by an ankle injury that required reconstructive surgery and sidelined him for the 2006-07 season.

Los Angeles acquired Mihm from the Boston Celtics in a six-player trade involving Gary Payton and Rick Fox on Aug. 13, 2004.

"The last two years have been difficult and frustrating for Chris in coming back from his ankle injury," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. "But Chris has handled himself with true professionalism the entire time. With the depth of our roster, especially at the center position, Chris has not had the opportunity to play that he deserves."

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