The time may have come for Lakers rookie forward Derrick Caracter to fill a need.
He has been told by the Lakers' assistant coaches to be prepared to play more minutes. Even Coach Phil Jackson has said Caracter may be called on to play more.
Why? It goes back to center Andrew Bynum's continuing unavailability while he recovers from right knee surgery.
That has meant heavy minutes for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in the first six games, too many for the Lakers' liking. Gasol is averaging 38.5 minutes per game, 15th-most in the NBA. Odom is averaging 35.7 minutes, 37th in the league.
With backup center Theo Ratliff laboring because of a sore left knee, Jackson may have to turn elsewhere to find relief for Gasol and Odom.
"It is what it is right now so Derrick is going to have to find some time out there on the floor," Jackson said. "And we're going to have to extend Theo to what he can do."
Caracter has played in five games, a total of 22 minutes. He's averaging two points and 1.4 rebounds.
"Obviously with Andrew not being there, I'll have more time to be out there and prove myself," Caracter said.
Listed at 6 feet 9 and 275 pounds, Caracter is considered an undersized power forward. As a second-round draft pick (58th overall), he has a steeper learning curve than some other players.
But it may be time for him to step in, and quickly.
"I pretty much just wait my time," Caracter said. "Whatever [Jackson] asks me to do, just be ready to go out there and perform."
Blake shooting lights out
There was a time, Jackson said, when Steve Blake wasn't a knockdown three-point shooter. That was a ways back, when Blake was in college at Maryland.
Things have changed. Blake has become one of the best long-distance shooters in the NBA.
"He's definitely a player who from where he started — a guard in college asked not to shoot the ball and to be a playmaker — he's become a very good shooter," Jackson said.
Blake has made 52.2% (12 of 23) of his three-point attempts, 13th in the NBA.
Still, that put him behind teammates Odom (first, 66.7%), Derek Fisher (second, 63.6%) and Shannon Brown (seventh, 53.3%) through Friday's games.
"I consider myself still a playmaker," said Blake, who will face one of his former teams, the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday night at Staples Center. "But it's just a different type of role as a point guard in this offense. In the NBA, you start to play with better players who have the ball in their hands."
Blake mentioned former teammates like Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Roy, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony.
"So you learn to play off the ball and spot up and get to the spots where you have shots," Blake said. ". . . Every year, more and more I got more comfortable off the ball."