Lakers Have Several Options in the Middle
Posted Oct 3 2007 9:13PM
HONOLULU, Oct. 3 (AP) -- Michael Jordan handled the scoring load, Horace Grant and later Dennis Rodman got the rebounds, and Scottie Pippen did a little bit of everything as the Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA in the 1990s.
The Bulls won six championships despite a nondescript group of centers that included Bill Cartwright, Luc Longley, Will Perdue and Bill Wennington doing much of the dirty work.
Jackson finds himself with a similar group of anonymous big men entering this season with the Los Angeles Lakers in Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum. He's counting on them to contribute far more than they did during the past two seasons.
"What Phil had in Chicago, those guys were veterans, big bodies,'' Lakers star Kobe Bryant said Wednesday. "They had a lot of experience. Our guys are still young, it will take some learning, learn on the fly. The learning curve has to be sped up.''
When asked if the Lakers had what it takes to contend for a championship, Jackson put the onus on his big men, saying: "I don't know. We'll have to be awfully good in the middle. We've got two guys who were injured and one guy who was a novice. They have to be real effective for us.''
Jackson said all three will probably get a chance to play early in the season.
"We always had three centers in Chicago,'' Jackson said. "They plugged the middle, boxed guys out so Rodman could rebound.''
The 28-year-old Mihm hopes to bounce back after sitting out last season while recovering from two operations on his right ankle.
"I expect to be able to play fully,'' said Mihm, a 7-foot-0, 265-pounder who was having his best season before injuring his ankle in March 2006. "I've got to focus on taking care of it, resting it, icing it. I've got to pay attention to it.
"There are certain things I'm still working on. My timing, I feel like I can get better at. And my explosiveness.''
Mihm acknowledged how difficult last season was for him.
"It was a pretty brutal year,'' he said. "I've never gone through anything like that. In November and December, there was a point where I found myself really down.''
The 25-year-old Brown was limited to 41 games last season because of injuries to his left ankle and right shoulder. He wound up undergoing offseason surgeries on both.
"Hopefully,'' the 6-11, 270-pounder replied when asked if thought he'd be ready when the season begins Oct. 30. "I'm not even going full-court yet. Hopefully I can get my conditioning down. That was definitely a difficult summer for me. I expect to struggle a little bit.''
The 19-year-old Bynum had some impressive moments early last season - his second with the Lakers. But admittedly, he faded in the second half of the campaign, when the Lakers lost 29 of their last 43 games to finish 42-40.
"I've just been out there on the track - that's the only way to get it done,'' said Bynum, a 7-0, 285-pounder. "I feel a lot better, I'm a lot stronger. My wind's a lot better. I have to prove I'm worthy of being the No. 10 pick.''
The Lakers drafted Bynum with the 10th overall pick in 2005.
"Just from looking at him, I'm impressed,'' said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a special assistant coach for the Lakers whose 38,387 career points are the most in NBA history. "He lost a lot of baby fat and his adult body started to emerge.
"People are expecting things from him and he has to deliver at some point.''
Jackson said he didn't know who he's going to be the starting center.
"It doesn't matter. I don't have a sense of it right now,'' he said. "There's a good chance we'll play all three of them (on a regular basis). We may have to. As aggressive as we want to play defense, they may be in foul trouble.
"Rebounding and defense is what's going to help us win.''
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