Monday report

If you were the Lakers, how would you match up against the Clippers on Tuesday night?

It would seem like the best way to go might be swapping Luke Walton out of the starting five in favor of Kwame Brown. That would leave Andrew Bynum on Chris Kaman, Brown on Elton Brand, Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant on Quinton Ross and Cuttino Mobley (take your pick there), and Smush Parker on Sam Cassell.

This is the debate Lakers coach Phil Jackson seems to be having and which I wrote about for Tuesday’s paper. For what it’s worth, Brown came out from the locker room to speak with reporters and put assistant coach Brian Shaw in the mother of all bearhugs. That seemed to answer a lot of the questions about Brown’s shoulder.

Brown, as usual, said more in three minutes than most players do in 30. He called a matchup against Brand “a physical test of your will.” He said that right now his main focus is on bringing energy when he gets on the court. He still is not comfortable on offense but was happy with the charges he took on defense Sunday.

Brown also was asked about the Lakers’ 7-3 start. Granted, he only played in three of those games, but his answer was telling.

It says a lot about our team when we can win with half the guys not knowing the offense,” Brown said. “Sometimes we dont share the ball as much as we should and the coaches like, but we still find a way to win. Once we put it all together and guys learn the offense, we should be a pretty good team.

Kobe Bryant , meanwhile, was asked about how Sunday’s game measured up in his return from knee surgery.

“I felt like it was a big step because defensively I felt like I played extremely well,” Bryant said. Having to chase (Kirk) Hinrich and (Ben) Gordon around, thats a lot of movement for anybody, let alone me because Im still trying to get into game condition. I felt like I did a great job of staying with those guys.”

* * *

If Jordan Farmar is unable to play tonight, Sasha Vujacic could get the opportunity to be the first guard off the bench, a role Farmar basically took from him this season. It’s especially important with the Clippers bringing Shaun Livingston off their bench. Vujacic is averaging 2.0 points, playing 9.1 minutes and shooting 24 percent.

* * *

Here are the notes for Tuesday:

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–For all the talk about first place in the Pacific Division being at stake, as well as early-season bragging rights, Lakers coach Phil Jackson faces a big decision as his team plays host to the Clippers tonight.

Does Jackson opt to start centers Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown in the same lineup and match up against the Clippers Elton Brand and Chris Kaman with his best combination of size and strength?

Bynum and Brown have not played in the same starting five together and both are best suited to play center. Jacksons answer Monday to a question about starting the two together was, “Right now, I would say no but theres a chance.

Yet Brown spent Mondays practice getting reacquainted with playing on the wing in the triangle offense. It was the position the Lakers hoped Brown would play opposite center Chris Mihm when he first arrived last season.

“I havent ran that position in a while, so I was trying to brush up on it a little bit today, Brown said. “I still remember some of it, but I didnt have it down that great when I was there. I dont know. Well see.

The Lakers started Brown all four times they played the Clippers last season and matched him up against Brand in three of the games. With Mihm out at the end of the season, Brown played center and Lamar Odom took Brand.

Jackson might have telegraphed his intentions when he said of tonights game, “I think the biggest step is Kwame Brown having to guard their All-Star. That would be Brand, who had a season-high 33 points and 12 rebounds Saturday against Philadelphia.

With another game at Utah on Friday, Brown likely will match up against forward Carlos Boozer. Jackson said of this weeks games, “Were going to have to show we can play inside with these teams.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Lakers is how to develop Bynum and Brown at the same time. After Brown was lost to a shoulder injury in the preseason, Bynum stepped into the starting lineup and has averaged 10.3 points and 7.0 rebounds.

Brown has come off the bench in three games since returning and had three points, nine rebounds and one monster dunk in Sundays victory over Chicago. He made his case for more minutes in a practice last week.

“We played pivots with the big guys last week and Kwame definitely showed his dominance in the post with the other big guys, Jackson said. “Were still waiting to see him flesh out the rest of his game in a live-court situation.

The Lakers concluded last season that Brown was best served playing center instead of wing. Brown said Monday that he knew he would be used for “defensive purposes if he started against the Clippers.

With 72 games left in the season, Brown will have ample opportunity to return to the starting lineup if he can get healthy and prove himself. The Lakers came into the season hoping Brown could average 15 points and 10 rebounds and have a breakout year.

“He should be striving to be the starter, Jackson said, “and thats a challenge that I think he wants and weve been talking about that.

Brown said: “Andrews doing a great job. I wouldnt change it up until something goes different. But Im going to be ready, just like I was last year, and when I get my time, Ill be ready.

Battle for L.A.: The Lakers tried to downplay tonights game, with Kobe Bryant saying he thought it would take a playoff meeting for the Lakers and Clippers to become a true rivalry. But Jackson did take one jab at Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

I know the owners like each other, Jackson said. “I know that Don Sterlings been eating off Dr. Buss plate for years.

The two teams have split the last two season series and would have met in the second round of the playoffs had the Lakers advanced back in May. The Lakers have opened this season 7-3 while the Clippers are 6-2.

Did they dethrone us last year as the favorite team in town? Jackson said. “I mean, that was what they said in the process. That was all the hype. I guess were the underdogs, trying to come back and find a way to get into this scrap that theyre going to have and go forward with it.

Injury update: Guard Jordan Farmar didnt practice after spraining his ankle Sunday and likely wont play tonight. Forward Ronny Turiaf figures to be activated for the game and offers an extra big man to use against the Clippers.