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Lakers just middling around, but they could use some help in the middle

MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

It's one of those November nights where the Lakers don't have the energy and they lose to the Pacers, 95-92. Pau Gasol's struggles can be attributed to his heavy minutes, but don't expect the Lakers to add a big man.

November 28, 2010|Mark Heisler

It was a Sunday in November, like a lot of Sundays in November.

The Lakers, taking it one at a time in the long march to April and the start of their real season — supposedly — were out-energized in a 95-92 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Of course, Lakerdom is accustomed to post-Thanksgiving fades … some of which last until April.

Andrew Bynum was out once more.

Bynum's return had just been pushed back once more.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson wasn't happy about it with Theo Ratliff out too, leaving Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derrick Caracter his only big men … assuming Caracter counted, at 6 feet 81/4, with 94 minutes of NBA experience.

Jackson noted bringing in help is "not in the cards," but, truth be told, wants a journeyman like Jake Voskuhl to run out there for 10 minutes.

"We're playing Pau too many minutes. Don't have a backup for either he or Lamar," said Jackson before the game.

"We put all our eggs in one basket of Andrew coming back and we hoped he'd be back by this time, by Nov. 15, by Thanksgiving time …

"So we don't know when Andrew's coming back and right now Pau didn't score in the fourth quarter the other night [against Utah] because he played too many minutes and didn't have that energy."

Unfortunately, Voskuhl would cost about $35,000 a week on a prorated $1-million veteran's minimum contract … multiplied by two by luxury tax, making it $70,000.

Happily for the Lakers, they made $353,600 Sunday night, just off their courtside seats — enough to afford Voskuhl for five weeks!

There are 136, all sold as season tickets at $2,600 each.

Unfortunately, owner Jerry Buss has the money earmarked for other purposes, confident Bynum's return is imminent.

It better be. Gasol went 45 minutes Sunday and was outscored 24-13 by Indiana's Roy Hibbert. Then there were the Clippers …

They play Sundays too, if earlier — 12:30 p.m., which is like the crack of dawn in the NBA — and with less fanfare.

Their season hadn't really begun, either … and may never.

Talk of making the playoffs is over. It's now an official rebuilding project, in which the Utah Jazz dropped them to 3-15, dispatching them, 109-97.

The Clippers have a talented, young roster — again — but even they have never had anyone like Blake Griffin, who scored 35 points with 14 rebounds and seven assists.

Griffin is now at 30-11-5 in his last five games, to say nothing of the eye-popping way he did it.

Utah Coach Jerry Sloan, the NBA's Gary Cooper and a man not given to hyperbole, compares him to … Larry B-B-B-Bird?

"He's a little bit like Larry Bird, in that he can do a lot of things," said Sloan, "but he's just a little bit bigger and a little bit quicker. …

"I'd pay to watch him play. [Laughing] And I don't like to spend money."

Not that the issue ever changes — can the Clippers improve enough to keep Griffin when he can become a free agent in 2013?

Right now, they're dead in the water and can't even hang it around Baron Davis' neck anymore.

If they perked up when Davis was hurt in their fifth game, they began letting opponents score even faster, dropping to No. 25 in points allowed.

Griffin, who has more sterling qualities with such good manners, he calls press people "sir," is totally with the program.

Of course, he was never on a losing team, so this isn't all he dreamed of.

"It's tough but things change, stuff happens, people get hurt," said Griffin. "You can't make excuses. You can't feel sorry for yourself.

"I'm not sitting back and saying, 'Oh, you know we're young, it's OK.'"

November isn't even the cruelest month in the NBA, only the first one.

Griffin is 21, but by April, he'll be a lot older.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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