Tuesday report

For the first time Monday, the subject of a contract extension for Andrew Bynum came up with Phil Jackson. I wrote something about this a little while back but its hard to understate how important July 1, 2008 is going to be to the Lakers future.

Thats the first day of a window that runs through Oct. 31, 2008 when the Lakers can lock up Bynum to a multimillion-dollar contract extension. Its the same thing that Cleveland went through last summer with LeBron James.

The question is what kind of body of work the Lakers are going to have when they talk about committing an incredible sum of money to a 20-year-old kid. If you think Bynum is a franchise center, do you start talking about a max contract?

Just to put a max contract into perspective, if the NBA salary cap is up to about $58 million by then, Bynum could be signing (gulp) a five-year, $87 million extension. It would go into effect beginning the 2009-10 season.

Jackson said Monday that the Lakers would be doing little more than projecting when they had to make that decision.

“Theres not even going to be a maturity in his body, let alone mentally at the time that we have to make some big decisions, Jackson said. “Hes got to show a certain sense of responsibility that really takes it a long ways.

If the Lakers cant agree on an extension with Bynum, they still would retain his rights as a restricted free agent after the 2008-09 season. They could match any deal Bynum would receive, although things get a little murky after that.

Bynum could play the 2009-10 season on a qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent. He could force the Lakers into a sign-and-trade if he decided he wanted to leave. Or he could sign an abbreviated three-year extension much like James did.

Its too early to talk about what the Lakers should offer Bynum. What I propose is an over/under on Bynums future deal. If you look at the contracts Nene, Chris Kaman and Tyson Chandler all recently received, Bynum is going to have a gargantuan payday.

Start by looking at the centers with whom Bynum compares using John Hollingers Player Efficiency Rating. This is just to figure out what ballpark Bynums in. He ranks 14th among centers with a PER of 17.20, above the average of 15 for an NBA player.

Among players who have signed big deals, Samuel Dalembert ($9.680 million in 07-08) is 13th, Eddy Curry ($8.947 million) is 11th and Zydrunas Ilgauskas ($10.142 million) is 10th. Below Bynum are Chris Wilcox ($6.5 million) and Erick Dampier ($8.597 million). The top five centers are all max contract players.

If you take an average value of $10 million, then Bynum would get a five-year, $50 million deal. If you take a starting point of $10 million, then Bynum would get a five-year, $60.5 million deal. Split the difference and your over/under is $55.3 million.

Needless to say, its critical for the Lakers to figure out what they have next season in Bynum. This is my estimate of the kind of deal Bynum will be looking at. Id love to see someone elses.

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A postscript to Mondays story about Kobe Bryant meeting a 5-year-old boy named Kobe Grandstaff after the Lakers game. I got an e-mail today saying that not only is the father a student pastor, he also helped scores of families that relocated to Atlanta after Hurricane Katrina.

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Lakers notes for Wednesday

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

ATLANTA–Never would the Lakers have guessed when they left on this eight-game trip more than a week ago that they might arrive home with forward Luke Walton still struggling to return from a sprained ankle.

Walton suffered the injury Jan. 26 and has missed six games as a result. He hoped to return Monday against the Hawks, then talked about using a two-day break between games to get ready to play Thursday at Detroit.

But Walton was unable to practice Tuesday and his availability is in question with the Lakers playing back-to-back games against the Pistons and Toronto Raptors. They will finish this trip Sunday at Cleveland.

“Hes getting frustrated with the situation, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Its longer than he ever thought it would be. Its just difficult for him to sustain it when youre on the road like this and youre trying to find a way to get out there and nothing seems to work right.

Walton said Monday he woke up with the ankle feeling great. When he got on the floor at shootaround, however, Walton couldnt shake the pain. The Lakers have had to scale back from rehab work to simple treatment sessions.

“Im able to do more and more stuff, said Walton, who originally was supposed to miss about a week. “I just cant do the full-out running or the cutting yet. Until I can do that, I cant play.

The Lakers have spent plenty of time this month worrying about sprained ankles. Kwame Brown was to fly to Indianapolis after practice to get a second opinion on his injured left ankle, which he rolled in a Dec. 31 game.

Former starting center Chris Mihm is on this trip and was working out on an elliptical machine Tuesday. Mihm was supposed to be out for the season after undergoing a second ankle surgery but could return if his rehab continues ahead of schedule.

“Were certainly not trying to put any pressure on him to make a return this year, Jackson said. “Just whatever happens. We hope that he has the opportunity but were certainly not counting on it.

Two-man game: Jackson was asked about Kobe Bryants balancing act between taking over games and trusting his teammates. He did both in the fourth quarter Monday, scoring 11 points but also giving up the ball to Smush Parker for a key 3-pointer.

“We really think that if we distribute the ball at the right time in the game when the focus comes on him, theres some easy shots that people have, Jackson said. “If he trusts his teammates in those situations, were really a difficult team to stop.

Page turner: Jackson put off giving a book to each player on this trip, one of his annual traditions as a coach. He was unable to find a book that was out of print and went off on his players recently that they werent going to appreciate them anyway.

“All you guys can do is play video games and watch porn movies, Jackson said.

Jackson added that he probably will hand out books on the Lakers four-game trip in March.

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