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LAKERS FYI

Fewer minutes are almost a guarantee

October 06, 2008|Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner | Times Staff Writers

It's not a bad problem, but, well, it's definitely lingering there for the Lakers -- too many players fighting for too few minutes.

There's a logjam at small forward, especially since Kobe Bryant shifted there from shooting guard to make room for Lamar Odom's move to the backcourt.

Even if Bryant played less than 38.9 minutes a game (his average last season), it would be hard to squeeze enough time out of the position for Trevor Ariza, Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Walton.

"As far as I've heard from the coaches, everybody is going to be playing shorter minutes," Radmanovic said. "So, we have to prepare mentally."

Walton averaged 7.2 points in 23.4 minutes a game last season. Ariza averaged 6.5 points and 18 minutes a game, and Radmanovic averaged 8.4 points and 22.8 minutes.

Walton has been sidelined while recovering from off-season ankle surgery and Radmanovic hasn't shown many dimensions beyond shooting, so Ariza is the favorite to get the bulk of the reserve minutes there. (Ariza might end up the starter if the Odom backcourt experiment fails, with Bryant moving back to shooting guard and Odom relegated to the bench.)

The small forwards are also in different contract stages.

Including this season, Walton has five years and $26 million, and Radmanovic has three years and $19.4 million. Ariza is in the final year of a contract that pays him $3.1 million this season.

Ariza tried to put a positive spin on all of it.

"We all do different things," he said. "We all bring different aspects to the game. Either way you go, you can't lose."

Day of rest

Coach Phil Jackson gave the team a break during training camp, letting them stay home Sunday, the final day of two-a-day practices.

Jackson indicated Saturday he was happy with the players' efforts, particularly in a Friday night scrimmage.

"Everybody worked hard," he said. "My coaches felt that 'Drew [Bynum] played the best that he's performed all week, at least hustle-wise.

"The first unit felt very confident and played well together. Pau [Gasol], particularly, had an impressive practice. His rhythm is there because he's been playing. He just kept it up."

The day off was a tad too late for some players.

After Saturday's morning practice, Odom sauntered up to Jackson and asked if players could skip the night practice.

Jackson smiled, put his hand on Odom's shoulder and said, "No."

Odom smiled back.

"I had to ask," said Odom, a big baseball fan who wanted to watch the Dodgers-Cubs game. "I was just looking out for my guys."

Two-a-days haze

Overall, Jackson seemed pleased with what he witnessed in training camp.

Odom was unhappy with the possibility of being a sixth man and Bynum looked tired for a day or two, but the positives outweighed the negatives in Jackson's eyes.

"They really serve a purpose because there is some mental toughening," Jackson said of two-a-days. "Physically, it's daunting . . . you can see players kind of hit the wall after two or three days.

"I had to encourage them. One of the things we talked about as a team was 'Don't take any days off at practices.' . . . I thought that they picked it up and had a terrific practice" Friday night.

The Lakers begin exhibition play Tuesday against Utah in Anaheim.

Who's who

Bryant ranked No. 28 in BusinessWeek's second annual list of the 100 most powerful people in sports.

Cleveland forward LeBron James ranked No. 17, the top NBA athlete in "The Power 100."

Tiger Woods was first overall, followed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA Commissioner David Stern. Tim Leiweke, chief executive of AEG, was No. 23.

--

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

broderick.turner@latimes.com

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