Chris Mihm: Finding His Footing
When Lakers center Chris Mihm gingerly limped off the court in April 2006, he had no idea it would be his last NBA action for almost a year and a half.
The center was firmly planted on the bench for the Lakers entire 2006-2007 campaign, forced to endure a grueling recovery from a severely sprained ankle that knocked him out of the final weeks of the 2005-2006 season and all of last season.
While the Lakers were on their way to a near stunning upset of the Phoenix Suns in the 2005-2006 playoffs, the seven-footer sat idly by, his abilities rendered useless despite averaging 10 points and six rebounds in his best season to date.
“It was really tough, especially the first one that I missed. I was having the best season of my career and really was feeling confident and excited about the upcoming playoffs,” said Mihm. “To get injured right before the playoffs was tough…it was really not good times for me.”
Despite being relegated to the sidelines, the center persevered, knowing full well that his career year was no aberration and that the battle to regain his step would be no slam dunk.
The road to recovery proved difficult for Mihm as the former Texas star was forced to draw upon his inner circle to make sure his head remained high and that his eyes were firmly entrenched on returning to the court.
“The organization was really good to me here. A lot of people came and put in a lot of hard work and effort to get me back on the court,” said Mihm. “Our whole training staff was wonderful, my family, my girlfriend. I really had everyone really rally around me and it really made it that much easier to go through the whole process.”
While he was not able to participate in contact practices with the team for the better part of a year, Mihm made sure his mind was active with basketball, studying the Lakers roster—especially emerging center Andrew Bynum.
“I just try to—even last year when I was out—to give him help, give him little pointers when I can when he is in the game, just stuff that I see that can help him out when I have a chance,” said Mihm.
As a notorious gym-rat, Mihm appreciates hard work and effort when he sees it.
“I think Andrew worked really hard over the summer and I think he is really starting to come into his own,” said Mihm. “He is a lot more patient, a lot more confident on the offensive end. He seems to really have gotten his conditioning into good form.”
With three starting caliber centers on the Lakers roster this season—
Himself, Bynum and Kwame Brown—Mihm recognizes that the coaching staff has several decisions to make, but is excited be on the floor with the team in any capacity.
“I think we are kind of feeling that out as training camp goes on for everybody,” said Mihm. "I think that is what this month is for—to see what groups fit well together…it is up to Phil to decide when the time comes.”
In boosting his case for more minutes, Mihm says he has returned to the Lakers with an improved outside shot and an enhanced understanding of the triangle offense—two non-contact activities that the center was able to hone while he was out.
Still, despite participating in the majority of the Lakers training camp activities and exhibition games, Mihm admits he has yet to fully recover the form that placed him in the upper echelon of NBA centers prior to his injury.
“I would not say 100%,” said Mihm. “I think right now, I’m still getting back into my full form.”
With the October 30 home opener looming, the center knows he will need to shake off much more than simple early season rust.
“One area I notice most is my lateral quickness," said Mihm. "I’m still trying to get my full timing, my full pop laterally. Defensively and offensively, that is the area I’ve noticed the most so far.”
Although his trek toward perfect health is still ongoing, Mihm is standing tall once more on the dawn of the 2007-2008 season, ready to reprise his role for a Lakers team that has sorely missed his intensity, energy and perhaps, most importantly—his calm demeanor and infectious attitude.
“I expect big things from this team. I not only expect us to make the playoffs, I expect us to advance,” said Mihm. “I think we have the talent and there is no reason why we should not do that. I think we need to focus on coming together and playing as a true team and one unit.”
He may not be 100% yet, but it appears as if Mihm has once again found his footing with the Lakers.
“I’m excited to be back and to stay healthy,” said Mihm. “I’ll have my shot this year.”