Media day notebook

Here’s an online-only notebook from media day:

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–Whether he realized it or not, Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic was rubbing the newfound muscles on his arms as he talked Monday about his off-season.

Vujacic weighed in for his third season at 205 pounds, looking considerably thicker in his arms and upper body, up from his listed weight of 193 pounds as a skinny rookie in October 2004.

He spent part of his summer training with his old coach in the mountains outside of Belgrade, Serbia, and said his goal for this season was to simply “bring more than I did last year, when Vujacic regained his confidence after a lowly rookie season.

Vujacic played in all 82 games last season and averaged 3.9 points while shooting 34.6 percent. The Lakers have until Oct. 31 to exercise the fourth-year option in his rookie contract; Vujacic admitted this is a big season for him even though he is only 22.

“I had two seasons to see how the NBA works, Vujacic said. “I think with putting a little bit extra muscle on me, its going to help me out in the next season.

Vujacics size could give him an edge in matching up against bigger guards on defense. The Lakers have four ball-handling guards competing for minutes in Smush Parker, Shammond Williams, Jordan Farmar and Vujacic.

Still hurting: It has been nearly seven months since Chris Mihm severely sprained his right ankle in the final minute of the Lakers March 12 game. Only recently has Mihm been able to say “its finally starting to feel like an ankle again.

After a summer of setbacks, Mihm underwent surgery to clean up the ankle on July 26. He was told by doctors it would be two months until he was able to run again and three months before he could play full speed.

If Mihm followed that timetable, he wouldnt resume playing until Oct. 26, five days before the season opener against Phoenix.

“I dont want to have this be something thats really killing me already in the preseason, Mihm said, “and then have to limp through it the whole season.

Mihm was having a career season, averaging 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, as the Lakers starting center before he was injured. Kwame Brown has since supplanted him, leaving Mihm uncertain where he will play once he is healthy.

One option would be for Mihm to play the power forward spot on the wing. Mihm played the position alongside Zydrunas Ilgauskas in Cleveland and said he thought he had the jumper to make the move work.

“The most important thing for me is that we keep this team building and improve on what we did last year, Mihm said. “If its asked of me that I have to move to the 4, Im going to do whatever it takes to be a big factor for this team.

The kid: Lakers coach Phil Jackson would not guarantee anything when it came to 18-year-old center Andrew Bynum and his role this season. Bynum played in 46 games as a rookie after the Lakers selected him No. 10 overall.

“Theres a wonderful opportunity with Chris being out of the first few exhibition games, Jackson said, “for him to really get an opportunity to see if he can fit in and find a role to play on this team, and do the best job he can to develop that skill that hes learned this summer.

Jackson said Bynum had an encouraging summer-league season and was looking more like a man instead of a boy. The true test, Jackson said, will come for Bynum in making successive moves like grabbing a rebound and putting it back.

Looking west: Jackson was asked how the Western Conference was shaping up. He mentioned Houston and Minnesota as the two teams most likely to move into the top eight playoff spots.

Jackson also mentioned Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix as being a cut above. He answered yes when asked if 45 wins – - the Lakers total last season – - would be enough for a team to get into the playoffs.

“The rest of us are all down here fighting in that pack thats going to be chasing after that group of guys, Jackson said.

Also: The Lakers signed center Mamadou NDiaye and forward Marcus Douthit to non-guaranteed contracts. N’Diaye has played in parts of five seasons for Toronto, Dallas, Atlanta and the Clippers. Douthit was the Lakers’ second-round draft pick in 2004 out of Providence.

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  • Michael Teniente

    Great report! I’m hoping Sasha comes through with his shot. It would be a killer weapon for the Lakers to have.

    mike