Friday report

One of the most frequently asked questions about the Lakers has to deal with Kobe Bryant and how he has changed as a person. I dont have an answer, but I did appreciate a gesture Kobe made at practice Friday.

After walking into the trainers room from the practice court – – which almost always means conversation over – – he came back out to finish talking about Terrell Owens return to Philadelphia. You have to remember that Kobe is a huge Eagles fan.

I asked him something Id wondered for a long time – – namely, how could a kid who grew up in Philadelphia when the Phillies went to the World Series in 1993 wind up a Yankees fan.

Kobe said he always watched the Yankees games. Ryan Howards name came up and Kobe guessed that Howard might wind up playing for the Yankees someday, which probably would kill the Philly fans.

I have no idea if Kobe is going to be “reaching out this season, as everyone is fond of saying. It just seems like hes in a good place. And its nice to be able to talk about something other than basketball every so often.

* * *

There wont be a Saturday update as I have a wedding to attend in Santa Clara. Its on to Las Vegas after that, with the Lakers playing exhibition games there against Phoenix and Sacramento.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–Not long after he took the court Friday for his first five-on-five game since undergoing knee surgery, Kobe Bryant found himself on the wrong end of a fast break headed his direction.

As Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis recounted the sequence, forward Brian Cook went up with the ball and Bryant went up for the block. No basket was scored. Cook argued afterward that he was fouled; Bryant claimed he made a clean block.

Either way, Bryant made a statement in his return. His right knee is not back to full strength, yet Bryant was able to bring his trademark competitiveness to what was described as a controlled scrimmage.

“He wasnt going to back down and take it easy, Rambis said. “He went right after people. In his mind, hes gearing himself up, getting ready to come back.

Bryant underwent knee surgery July 15 and said he had reached a limit as far as strengthening the knee through weight training. He has to get back on the floor and get used to the quick cuts and full-court running the game demands.

“Its just getting out there and getting my legs underneath me again, Bryant said.

With coach Phil Jackson attending practice again Friday, the Lakers were nearly whole. Rambis said Jackson ran the team more than the assistants have while Bryant described practice as “intense.

Bryant, however, is at least a week away from making his season debut, with the Lakers having all but ruled him out of exhibition games Sunday and Tuesday in Las Vegas.

The Lakers believe there has been a benefit to playing this month without Bryant, who averaged 35.4 points last season. They have played well in the fourth quarter of two exhibition victories and have run the triangle offense better than expected.

“ Hopefully, these guys will pick up the offense, Rambis said, “and continue to run the offense and hell just plug himself in.

Brown hurt: Center Kwame Brown suffered a sprained right shoulder and is day to day. Brown injured his shoulder when he and Andrew Bynum got tangled up in practice.

The Lakers are down a center in Chris Mihm, who is recovering from ankle surgery. With Bynum as the only backup, Rambis mentioned the possibility of playing forward Lamar Odom at center against Phoenix on Sunday.

Be prepared: After carving out a 10-minute role for himself as a rookie, forward Luke Walton thinks guard Jordan Farmar will have a similar chance to prove himself to Jackson during his first NBA season.

“Hes going to give Jordan opportunities, Walton said of Jackson. “Hes not going to tell him when and hes not going to be ready for it. Its going to be the fourth quarter of a close game when hes never played before.

“I think Jordan, hes proven in practice every day and hes proven so far in the two preseason games that hes a great player. I think as long as he stays ready, the better he does, the more Phil will feel confident throwing him in there.

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Making a case

Ronny Turiaf walked out of the locker room Thursday night saying “Best point guard in the draft.” He was sure somebody had to be listening to his praise of Jordan Farmar.

Whether Farmar will be better than Marcus Williams, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry and the others won’t be decided for years. But Farmar had a tremendous fourth quarter in the Lakers’ 104-101 victory over Seattle.

After getting garbage time in Tuesday’s game, Farmar led the Lakers in the fourth quarter two nights later. The Lakers shot 68.4 percent in the fourth and went from three points down at the beginning to seven points ahead before holding on for the victory. Farmar had four assists in the quarter.

You can’t deny that Farmar has instincts far beyond a typical 19-year-old. He ran two perfect pick-and-pop plays with Brian Cook, the second of which resulted in the go-ahead 3-pointer. Farmar also had the presence to come from the blind side for a steal against Mickael Gelabale that led to a fastbreak basket for Ronny Turiaf.

Now consider that – – in a one-minute stretch in the second quarter – – Farmar hit a 3-pointer, fed Turiaf for a dunk, then stole the subsequent inbounds pass, leading to a Devin Green basket. That’s seven points Farmar accounted for there.

The minutes he got Thursday might be the most he plays in any fourth quarter this season. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said he wanted to rest Smush Parker with games coming up against Phoenix (Steve Nash) and Sacramento (Mike Bibby). Farmar still has to prove he can make shots and defend opposing point guards.

Most of his minutes Thursday came against Mike Wilks, who has played for six NBA teams in parts of five seasons. How much fun would it have been to see Farmar play Earl Watson in a battle of former UCLA guards?

It’s good to see Farmar making the most of his opportunities. He’s at least raising the issue of whether he deserves a spot on the active roster for games this season. He raises the energy when he’s on the court.

“His poise does not surprise me,” Rambis said. “You can see that he grew up being a point guard. He’s able to make good decisions at appropriate times. He understands basketball. He picked up this offense really quickly. We’re still scratching the surface of this offense, so there’s a lot more for him to learn.

“But he understands what his job is, he understands what everybody else’s job is. That type of basketball IQ bodes well for him, it’s going to carry him far in this league just because he understands things and pick things up quickly.”

You can tell the Lakers appreciate Farmar’s game because they draw the distinction between being a professional and being a rookie.

“Jordan’s big-game ready,” Lamar Odom said.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence with him,” Cook added. “He’s a professional player. He knows how to play the game, he knows how to read the game. He’s a pure point guard. He’s a leader. When you get out there with other people who know how to play the game, it makes everybody’s job a lot easier.”

* * *

Some notes from Thursday’s game: Odom was playing with a shin guard after getting kicked in his lower leg during Tuesday’s game in Fresno . . . The Lakers cut center Mamadou N’Diaye and forward Marcus Douthit, neither of whom even played Tuesday . . . Sasha Vujacic is suffering from a strained muscle in his left foot, did not play Thursday and will miss three or four days while recovering.

* * *

Cook led the Lakers with 16 points on 7 for 10 shooting, which would have been impressive enough until he showed me his right thumb after the game. He had surgery on the thumb after a freak summer injury and compared his right thumb to his left for my benefit. His right thumb is about 50 percent larger, so swollen that it doesn’t have any of the wrinkles or creases around the kunckles your normal thumb has.

This is the third finger Cook has broken since coming to the Lakers. He said he knows exactly what he is doing playing with the injury.

* * *

Andrew Bynum had his good moments and his bad moments when he played in the first half. Bynum threw one ill-advised bounce pass in the lane to Cook that the Sonics easily stole. He did score off a dunk and a putback and hit both free throws he took.

* * *

The game’s biggest lowlight came courtesy of guard Von Wafer in the third quarter. After Green made a spectacular block against Robert Swift and Aaron McKie saved the loose ball, Wafer air-mailed a pass into the seats. He followed with another turnover 30 seconds later.

The Lakers called timeout and Rambis had every player head to the bench while he grabbed Wafer and chewed him out. Wafer finished the quarter on the court but didn’t play afterward.
Continue reading “Making a case” »

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Wednesday report

Nothing quite like getting up at 6:30 a.m. in Fresno and driving home for 3 1-2 hours before going to practice. The Lakers will be back at it with an exhibition game Thursday night against Seattle in Anaheim. That drive might take just as long in rush-hour traffic.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson went over the game film from Tuesday and stayed until the very end of practice. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis offered the shared assessment from the coaches about the game.

“There were some good things that they did out there on the floor,” Rambis said. “There was not enough quick ball movement. There were a lot of times in our sequences where guys were holding the ball too long. We thought they did a better job of executing that principle in practice today.

There was another quote from Rambis last night in Fresno that I forgot to include in Tuesday’s entry. It dealt with Andrew Bynum and a nice block he had against Rafael Araujo in the second quarter.

“One of the things that we like about Andrew is that he will play and he wants to play and he likes to play both ends of the floor,” Rambis said. “One of the things that we’re really on him with is running from one end to the other at a pace that we like. Sometimes he wants to jog out there.

“He does like to defend, he does like to block shots and he likes to score at the other end. That type of attitude is going to carry him.”

What will be interesting to see is if the Lakers grow comfortable enough to give Bynum a role he can play this season or if they try to find tailor-made situations for him like they did last season. The Lakers played so many close games, Jackson was pressed to find spots where Bynum could get on the floor and not hurt the team.

If you look at Tuesday’s game, the Lakers outscored the Jazz 15-14 in the first half with Bynum on the floor and were outscored 17-13 with him playing in the second half. For what it’s worth, the Lakers were plus-19 with Lamar Odom playing in the second, third and fourth quarters.

I didn’t include this in the notes only because Sasha Vujacic is expected to play Thursday. But he is suffering from a bruised left foot.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–It was admittedly the first exhibition game and the second week of October but Lakers forward Lamar Odom didnt look like a player who went weeks this summer without picking up a basketball.

Odom led the Lakers with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds in 28 minutes Tuesday, a reassuring performance considering he once wondered if he would play this season in the wake of his infant sons death.

For eight minutes at the start of the third quarter, Odom was the best player on the floor. He took Utahs Carlos Boozer off the dribble for two layups, connected on a 3-pointer in transition and set up forward Luke Walton for another 3.

Odom also grabbed four rebounds and pushed the ball the other way after each one. It was no coincidence the Lakers took a 12-point lead in what had been a close game at halftime.

“It was good for me individually to have a game like that to start the season off, Odom said Wednesday, “being aggressive, attacking, things like that.

After the game, Odom said he was “playing with the spirit of two people in me, referring to his son Jayden. The day before, Odom said he wished training camp would last “four or five more days for the sake of getting him in shape.

Odom also said the game was a “growing” experience in how to play without Kobe Bryant, who is recovering from knee surgery. The only blemish on his night came in missing three free throws in the fourth quarter as he tired.

Even with the tragedy in his life, Odom has retained his sense of humor. With Kwame Brown teasing him as he answered questions Wednesday, Odom declared that Brown could lead the team in rebounding.

The laughter grew as Odom adjusted those expectations upward.

“He can lead the league if he really wanted to, Odom said.

“That dude right there steals so many rebounds, Brown fired back. “Now its almost like, `Just box out and let him get it.

Slap happy: The lowlight for teenage center Andrew Bynum came in the third quarter Tuesday as he showed off a great spin move only to come up short on a point-blank shot at the rim.

Bynum was so upset he smacked himself in the head a couple of times to everyones surprise.

Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis said: “I told him at the timeout, `Andrew, I was going to chew you out for not using your left hand but I saw that you already beat yourself up, so I let it go.”’

Listen up: Rookie guard Jordan Farmar was so excited to play that he got up and went to check in when Ronny Turiafs name was called in the third quarter. Farmar had to save face and sit down as quickly as possible, squeezing in next to assistant Brian Shaw.

Farmar did play the last 4:19 and gave the Lakers a jolt of energy, finishing with three points and two steals.

The coaches have taken to counting the number of times Farmar gets his hands on the ball in practice. His record so far is seven, which counts deflections and steals. Farmar is committed to moving his hands as much as he moves his feet on defense.

Also: Lakers coach Phil Jackson watched game film and stayed for all of practice but left before reporters were allowed in the gym.

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Exhibition evaluation

First impressions count for something, even in a half-filled arena in Fresno. Four guys who made good ones in the exhibition opener against Utah were Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom, Maurice Evans and Jordan Farmar.

Vujacic faces greater competition this season with the additions of Shammond Williams and Farmar. He had one of his best halves since coming to the Lakers in the opening two quarters Tuesday.

Not only did Vujacic hit all four shots he took – – Vladimir Radmanovic even passed on a shot to slide the ball to him for a 3-pointer at the end of the first half – – but he drew two offensive fouls by being a pest.

If he can do those two things, Vujacic will have a nice role for himself this season.

Odom, meanwhile, was the best player on the floor at the start of the second half. It wasnt a coincidence that the Lakers went from leading 44-41 at halftime to going up 12 in that stretch.

He took Carlos Boozer off the dribble for layups, knocked down a 3-pointer in transition and kicked out a pass to Luke Walton for a 3-pointer off a drive. Odom also was grabbing rebounds and pushing the ball the other way.

Odom finished with 18 points (on nine shots) with 6 assists and 5 rebounds in 28-plus minutes. The only weakness he had came in missing four free throws.

“Right now, Im playing with the spirit of two people in me, Odom said, referring to the tragic death of his infant son. “I want to just keep attacking, keep attacking, keep attacking, pour it on as much as I can.

“I lost my legs a little bit on my free throws. Theres always things you can improve on. Defensively, I want to just keep improving and knock down those free throws.

Evans was a 37.1 percent 3-point shooter last season in Detroit and showed that he can be more than just a defensive stopper. He connected on jumpers from 19, 26, 25 and 18 feet in the fourth quarter.

Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said Evans had been struggling to learn both the guard and forward spots in the triangle offense. But Rambis praised him at the same time for wanting to get better and being a quick learner.

Needless to say, Evans was impressive Tuesday. He still faces a minutes crunch trying to get on the floor as Kobe Bryants backup.

Farmar played the last 4:19 but made those minutes interesting. He was so eager to play that he jumped up in the third quarter to check in when Andrew Bynums name was called.

By the time he realized his mistake, Farmar tried to squeeze in next to assistant Brian Shaw on the bench.

On the court, Farmar whipped a pass to Ronny Turiaf as he drove the lane, which led to two free throws for Turiaf. He also was visibly frustrated as he posted up Utahs small guard Brian Chase and didnt get the ball.

Farmar had two steals as well in a matter of 15 seconds. He finished the game by slicing to the basket for a layup with the clock running out.

He missed the only jumper he took, but Farmar brought an unmistakable energy to the court.

As for some of the other players, Radmanovic missed all three shots he took in the first half and was way, way short on an open 3-pointer and a baseline jumper. He finished with seven points on 2 of 7 shooting.

Bynum turned in the lowlight of the game. He showed off a great spin move in the third quarter but somehow short-armed his shot from point-blank range. Bynum was so upset at himself, he smacked himself in the head a couple of times.

You could hear Odom on the bench asking why Bynum didnt dunk the ball. Bynum was asking himself the same question after the game.

Here’s the story on the game. There’s also a trivia question related to the part below about Derek Fisher: Name the five active players who were a part of all three of the Lakers championship teams this decade.
Continue reading “Exhibition evaluation” »

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Monday report

The Lakers love going to Fresno so much that they’re flying up the day of the game instead of the night before as they normally would. They’re going straight from the airport to the Save Mart Center for shootaround and will fly home as usual immediately after the game.

They played an exhibition game in Fresno two Octobers ago and had a miserable experience staying in a hotel not even fit for a high school team. One Lakers staffer found empty beer bottles littering her room, another staffer had no clean towels in his.

The first exhibition game is sloppy and interesting at the same time. I’m looking forward to seeing how Andrew Bynum plays. He was more up-and-down in summer league than I expected after a full NBA season. But he is clearly in better shape and is a more refined player than he was as a rookie.

Here’s what Kobe Bryant had to say Monday about Bynum: “He looks stronger. I was just telling (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) that today. He just looks so much stronger with being able to control the ball on the inside, rebound the ball, being able to go back up with it and finish plays with contact. He looks like a stronger player.

This also will be the Lakers debut for first-round draft pick Jordan Farmar and free-agent acquisition Vladimir Radmanovic. We didn’t see much of practice Monday – – or any of Phil Jackson – – but Farmar made a nice play faking a shot, driving baseline and flipping a pass to Devin Green coming down the lane for a dunk.

It brought Bryant out of his seat cheering.

Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said he hasn’t decided on a starting lineup or rotation. The Lakers had a lineup on the floor scrimmaging Monday with Sasha Vujacic, Maurice Evans, Lamar Odom, Radmanovic and Kwame Brown. I have NO idea if that will be the five tonight. But it was the first time I’d seen Radmanovic and Odom playing together.

As for Odom, he probably will log heavier than normal minutes as he tries to get into shape after spending much of his summer away from the game. Odom said Monday, “I wish training camp was four or five more days longer.

The Lakers have ruled Bryant out of Thursday’s exhibition game in Anaheim against Seattle. The team said it is too early to tell about Sunday and next Tuesday’s games in Las Vegas.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–Only six days after undergoing hip-replacement surgery, Lakers coach Phil Jackson wasted no time in asserting himself as he sat through practice Monday.

While assistant coach Kurt Rambis wondered if the Lakers were ready to take on learning a new element of the triangle offense, Jackson “ shoved it right down their throats, as Rambis put it.

Jackson stopped by the Lakers scrimmage Sunday night and returned for more than three-quarters of Mondays practice. He is still walking with a cane and has to regain his stamina before returning to the job full-time.

“Even from last night to this morning, he was spryer today and barking out commands to the guys, Rambis said. “ You can tell the itch is there with him. Hes eager to get back.

Jackson left Mondays practice before reporters were allowed into the gym.

Neither Jackson nor Kobe Bryant will be making the trip to Fresno as the Lakers play their first exhibition game tonight against Utah. The race might as well be on between the two to see who gets back first before the season opener in three weeks.

Bryant will stay behind to continue strengthening his right knee. He has yet to practice but said he is on schedule to return before the Oct. 31 opener.

With Bryant and Jackson not in attendance, the featured attraction might be teenage center Andrew Bynum. The Lakers have stressed the need for Bynum to get game experience and the exhibition season affords him that opportunity.

Bynum will be the primary backup to Kwame Brown with Chris Mihm sidelined as he recovers from ankle surgery. Bynum wont turn 19 until Oct. 27 but wants to prove he deserves a role as he enters his second season.

“We would love for him to go out there and play great and get as much time as possible, Rambis said. “That would be good for him and good for us. But realistically, hes going to probably fail more than hes going to succeed when he gets playing time out there.

The most Bynum has played in any NBA game – – exhibition or regular-season – – is 21 minutes. Rambis said he would wait to decide on a starting five and rotation until todays flight.

Bynum had a breakthrough of sorts on the court Monday. He spun to his right on a move and converted a shot with his left hand. Rambis described it as “something that weve all been begging him to do.

“He used his left hand for the first time in practice and hes been here for a year already, Rambis added, “so that lets you know how slow the process is.

The Lakers also hope that Bryants absence will let his teammates better learn how to run the offense without him. Too often last season, Rambis said, the Lakers would give the ball to Bryant and stop making cuts as they waited for him to shoot.

“We want to see the offense, Rambis said, “and we want to see the team work together and then Kobe just plug himself in so he can sustain himself for an entire season and be extremely fresh for the playoffs.

Raising cane: Lakers spokesman John Black was dismayed to see Jackson using a hospital-issued aluminum cane with a rubber handle on his visit.

“A man of Phils stature deserves a better cane, Black said, suggesting a wooden model preferably whittled somewhere in Montana.

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Sunday report

How laid-back were things Sunday in Lakerland? Assistant coach Kurt Rambis got tired of waiting after about 30 seconds of us interviewing Luke Walton and left to take a shower and go home. So assistant Brian Shaw came out, took a couple of good-natured digs at Rambis, and answered our questions.

Shaw said things have been a little different not having Phil Jackson around.

“Every coach that’s on that staff has an opinion,” Shaw said. “That’s what Phil likes. When he’s here, as a head coach you don’t want all your assistants to be on the same page. You want them to debate and argue. You take all that information into consideration, but then you say, `This is how we’re going to do it’ and we follow suit.”

Shaw said the first 1 1-2 days of training camp were a little less organized than usual but the staff has adjusted quickly. Jackson and Rambis are talking daily.

On a completely different note, Sasha Vujacic and Vladimir Radmanovic have taken to pairing off when they shoot after practice. It looks like Vujacic, who was mentored by Vlade Divac during his rookie season, has welcomed the addition of a new Vlade to the team.

Here’s a story on the Lakers’ second-longest tenured player after Kobe Bryant. Would you have guessed that’s Luke Walton? (He and Brian Cook actually share the distinction, in the interest of accuracy.)

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–With the departure of Devean George this summer, Luke Walton is now one of only three holdovers from the Lakers team that lost to Detroit in the 2004 NBA Finals, along with Kobe Bryant and Brian Cook.

Every time Walton has showed up for training camp, in addition, the Lakers have had a new look from the season before.

He was a rookie on the Finals team with four probable future Hall of Famers and thought, “I was going to win a championship just walking in the gym.’

The draft-lottery season after the Shaquille ONeal trade came next, followed by the return of Phil Jackson as coach and an agonizing seven-game loss to Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

The Lakers have not broadcast their expectations for this season – – Kwame Brown said it would be a “letdown not to reach the second round – – but Walton thinks the Lakers have as good a chance of advancing to the Finals as any Western Conference team.

“We feel like were at that level, Walton said. “We dont feel like theres a team out there thats just better than us. We feel like when were playing at the top of our game we can play and beat anyone else in the league.

The only proof Walton needed came after watching Phoenix lose to Dallas in six games in the conference finals. The Lakers also will bring back 11 players from last seasons team, which learned to play together in the triangle offense.

“As a team and a unit, you have a lot more confidence in each other, Walton said. “As opposed to last year when so many times the whole season, we were losing close games because we didnt really have that confidence about us. We had it about Kobe, but not about us as a team.

For his part, Walton is hoping to get through October healthy, as opposed to the last two years.

He is wearing compression leggings on the court to keep his hamstrings warm through all the stopping and standing of camp. Walton suffered a strained hamstring in the exhibition opener last season and went on to miss 11 regular-season games.

“My body feels better this training camp than it has since Ive been in the league, said Walton, who averaged a career-best 19.3 minutes last season.

His role also has yet to be defined. Walton moved into the starting lineup at the end of last season but the Lakers signed free-agent forward Vladimir Radmanovic in July, likely sending Walton back to the bench.

“With the way our team is set up, Walton said, “we have so many different versatile players that Im sure were going to use different starting lineups.

Walton is comfortable both as a starter and floor leader of the second team. Playing with the starters gives Walton a chance to settle into the game; coming off the bench usually lends itself to team play without the stars on the court.

Report card: Assistant coach Brian Shaw singled out Danilo Pinnock, Jordan Farmar, Brown and Walton for how they played in Saturdays scrimmage. Brown converted his opportunities in the post and Pinnock showed his athleticism.

“(Farmars) team was kind of stacked against him, Shaw said, “but he held his own and he did well.

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Saturday report

The Lakers held their first two-a-day practices on Saturday. We had media access at the end of the morning session. The team was going to scrimmage when it reconvened in the evening. Assistant coach Kurt Rambis was encouraged about how the team looked going through a defensive drill built around standard NBA offensive sets.

“We got through that a lot faster than I thought we would,” Rambis said.

The most exciting thing we saw was a set of drills in which the guards, forwards and centers worked in groups. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the centers doing a drill in which they would take up the ball on the left side with their left hands while holding a weighted ball in their right hands.

Then they would switch the weighted ball from their right to their left hands, catch the regular ball with their right hands and take it up on the right side. Repeat a couple of dozen times. It’s a test of coordination. With all the questions about his hands, Kwame Brown seemed to do it pretty well.

I posted a couple of weeks ago in response to a question about how many minutes Jordan Farmar will get as a rookie. It’s all up to how well Farmar plays and, especially, how he shoots. The over-under should be 11.6 minutes, which is the average for a rookie on a Phil Jackson-coached team.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–After all his teammates had left for the afternoon, Lakers rookie guard Jordan Farmar stayed on the practice court Saturday taking one jumper after another.

Those extra 15 minutes of work were a sure sign of Farmars determination. Even though he had to be back for a scrimmage in only five hours, Farmar would not leave the gym without feeling good about his shot.

Only six months after leading UCLA to the NCAA championship game, Farmar is starting over as a 19-year-old in the NBA. He played beyond his years on the Lakers summer-league team but knows nothing is guaranteed as a rookie.

With three other ball-handling guards on the roster – – Smush Parker, Sasha Vujacic and Shammond Williams – – Farmar might get his minutes in the NBA Development League this season. He could find himself on the inactive list more nights than not.

He might also be able to challenge for a role, especially if he can knock down his jumper with consistency. Farmar summed up his expectations for the season as “just to be productive, whatever they need me for.

“If theyre not going to play me, to be a good teammate, he added. “If Im going to play, I want to contribute as much as I can. I definitely want to play, I want to be out here and compete and make the guys ahead of me better so that we can improve as a team.

“If Im pushing them and theyre pushing me, were going to improve along the way. Thats my goal is just to take it step by step and do what Im asked to do. Thats part of being a professional. You have a job to do.

Farmar said he struggled a little with his shot in the first week of training camp. He had to remind himself to slow down a couple of times and make good decisions.

The Lakers also have worked with Farmar to change how he shoots. Farmar has a tendency to lean back slightly, which leaves his jumper coming up short. Now he is making a point of going up straight or leaning forward when he shoots.

Since the change, Farmar said he has had more strength on his shot and greater accuracy.

“I still go back to my old way a lot, Farmar said. “Its just natural habit. I have to keep getting the repetitions and doing it over and over again.

Sure-handed: After a season of watching center Kwame Brown sometimes fumble away passes out of bounds, assistant coach Kurt Rambis comment Saturday came almost as a revelation.

“To be honest with you, I dont think that Ive noticed him dropping the ball in this training camp, Rambis said. “Which is good, considering that most of this is a hack-fest out there.

Brown said he is not as “wide-eyed as he was first coming to the Lakers. His biggest challenge comes not only in catching the ball, but in slowing down once he has it.

“You can think about the spot that youre supposed to be at all day long, Brown said, “and then you cant do nothing without the rock.

Injury report: Veteran guard Aaron McKie practiced after sitting out Friday with a sore back.

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Friday extras

After four days of training camp, things have gotten somewhat “testy,” according to Lamar Odom. There’s no time for individual play as the Lakers learn together on both ends of the floor. Odom described the process as being “systematic.”

“Guys get a little testy,” Odom said, “especially the one time they get the ball, they get fouled.”

Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said the fouling has been a problem. The Lakers are prone to it right now in their scrimmages because they are still finding their way on defense. One central principle is that a teammate always will be there to back you up. It takes time to develop that trust and avoid reaching and holding instead.

* * *

The Lakers have talked about the need for better communication, and Odom seems to have taken it to heart. He called out every pick and every switch on defense when we watched the team scrimmage. Odom also was yelling “solo” when Kwame Brown had the chance to back down Mamadou N’Diaye and “finish” when Sasha Vujacic was leading the fast break and deciding what to do.

“It raises everybody’s awareness,” Odom said. “We have to work on our IQ as a basketball team.”

Odom was encouraged to take a greater leadership role with Kobe Bryant sidelined during camp as he recovers from knee surgery.

* * *

Center Chris Mihm increased his interval running Friday as he continues to recover from ankle surgery. Mihm still is at least two weeks away from being able to practice. He said he wants to be ready to go on Oct. 31 and hoped to play in at least one exhibition game before the season opener.

What position he will play continues to be a subject of interest. Mihm has said that he likes playing center but could play power forward on the wing if the Lakers wanted to use Kwame Brown exclusively at center. Rambis said it would be ideal to have both big men be interchangeable at the two spots. However, Mihm and Brown both are better suited as centers.

Mihm has said he has the jumper to play on the wing. Rambis was asked if he agreed.

“What would make him a good wing player is being able to step out and shoot that ball,” Rambis said. “But hes got to be able to make passes, hes got to be able to put the ball down on the floor, hes got to be able to run the lanes. So theres more to it than just shooting jumpers.’

* * *

Among the scrimmage highlights was Shammond Williams sending a perfect alley-oop pass to Vladimir Radmanovic for a layup.

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Friday report

Not good seeing Aaron McKie on the sidelines Friday. This season is the last opportunity for the Lakers to get anything in return on their $12 million investment in Vlade Divac and McKie. Divac never was able to recover from a back injury and retired before last season. So far, Divac and McKie have combined to play 251 minutes, the equivalent of 5.2 games. They were both high-mileage players the Lakers used either all or part of their midlevel exception on and suffered hard-luck injuries. They’re also the reason that Mitch Kupchak opted to spend this summer on Vladimir Radmanovic, who is under contract from age 26 to 30.

McKie is listed as day to day.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–While the Lakers scrimmaged at the end of practice Friday, Aaron McKie sat on a giant inflatable ball on the sidelines, a sore back leaving him watching instead of playing once again.

There is no doubt that the Lakers benefit from the presence and professionalism of McKie, who is entering his 13th season and turned 34 on Monday. The issue is whether McKie is healthy enough to make a contribution on the court.

He played in only 14 games in his first season with the Lakers, suffering a torn left quadriceps tendon that wasnt fully healed until this summer. McKie has a guaranteed contract for this season paying him $2.5 million.

Assistant Kurt Rambis was asked whether McKie – – the oldest player on the roster – – was a known commodity to the coaching staff given how many games he missed last season.

“We have a lot of faith in his leadership capabilities, Rambis said. “He did a great job when he wasnt playing or when he was dealing with injuries last year in working with the younger guys and showing them how to be professional and how to train and how to keep working hard. He was fantastic in those areas.

“In terms of playing out there on the court, he shows all those good instincts that good defensive players have. He understands this offense. Now its just physically whether or not hell be able to keep up with everything thats going on and compete for a spot.

McKie was signed to a two-year, $5 million contract in August 2005 after he was waived in a luxury-tax saving move by Philadelphia, which still owes him more than $12.5 million through the 2007-08 season.

The Lakers originally hoped that McKie would be their finisher, on the court for critical late-game situations. But he averaged only 8.6 minutes in the games he played and had only three baskets all season.

Happy camper: After undergoing open heart surgery in July 2005, forward Ronny Turiaf attended the first part of training camp last October in Honolulu. He was around the team, but not quite on it, and returned to Spokane, Wash., to continue his comeback.

Turiaf made it back to the NBA only four months later and played in 23 games for the Lakers. Now he is happily taking part in his first full camp – – calling it a “dream for me – – and trying to win a spot in the rotation.

I definitely feel part of this team, feel part of what were trying to accomplish here, Turiaf said. “Im trying to have some fun and play hard, play tough defense, and hopefully when Im on the court, the offense runs smoothly.

The Lakers have put the emphasis on defense, which plays to Turiafs strengths. He said he wanted to be a communicator on the floor as well as an “enforcer, setting screens, boxing out and doing the dirty work not in the box score.

“I know for a fact my teammates will appreciate the work that I do, Turiaf said.

He played this summer for the French national team, which took fifth at the world championships in Japan. It was another step in coming back from a surgery that once was feared could end his career.

“I regained my confidence in myself, Turiaf said. “Everybody was kind of doubting me as far as me making the team and all that stuff. They thought, `Ronny Turiaf hasnt played many games this year, we dont know what he can do. So I went out there with a chip on my shoulder to show them that I could do it.

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TV schedule

Got an e-mail asking what exhibition games would be televised. The good news is that seven of the Lakers’ eight exhibition games will be on TV. The bad news is that the first game, Tuesday against Utah in Fresno, will not be. It’s a shame because so many people are interested in seeing what Andrew Bynum can do in his second season.

Bynum figures to get minutes with Chris Mihm sidelined by an ankle injury. The most minutes Bynum played in any game as a rookie – – regular-season or exhibition – – was 21. He should get about that Tuesday.

The rest of the TV schedule for the preseason:

Oct. 12 Seattle Anaheim 7 p.m. KCAL
Oct. 15 Phoenix Las Vegas 6:30 p.m. KCAL
Oct. 17 Sacramento Las Vegas 7 p.m. KCAL
Oct. 19 Clippers Staples Center 7 p.m. FSW, TNT
Oct. 20 New Orleans or Golden State 7:30 p.m. FSW
Oct. 22 Phoenix San Diego 6:30 p.m. KCAL
Oct. 26 Denver Anaheim 7 p.m. TNT

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