Lakers Find Good Man to Back Up Abdul-Jabbar

Times Staff Writer

The Lakers may have found a new backup center--but just try to pronounce his name.

Petur Gudmundsson, signed to a 10-day contract last Tuesday after playing for the Kansas City Sizzlers in the Continental Basketball Assn., made an impressive debut for the Lakers Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

Gudmundsson, a 7-2 center, came off the bench after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got into foul trouble in the second half and scored 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in 20 minutes as the Lakers cruised to a 124-102 win over the Spurs before a sellout crowd of 17,505 at the Forum.


The Lakers (55-17) clinched the home-court advantage in the Western Conference for the playoffs with their third straight win and their 12th victory in their last 13 games.

But Gudmundsson’s play got everyone’s attention.

“He’s a diamond in the rough,” Byron Scott said of Gudmundsson.

Said Laker Coach Pat Riley: “I was obviously impressed with Petur. He showed us quality work. He’s a legitimate 7-2 center and he knows how to play the game.

“I’m real excited about him. It’s early, but he’s got a good opportunity here, he’s just got to take advantage of it.

“He’s fundamentally sound and a good postman. A lot of that comes from (Jack) Ramsay at Portland. Petur was a backup center there for a couple of years, and he had good coaching. He would help us, no doubt, if he can continue to play this way.

“He plays good defense, he can rebound and he’s a smart player. When you sign a player to a 10-day contract it’s tough to pick up the plays. But he’s had a couple of days to pick things up and he impressed me. (Assistant Coach) Bill (Bertka) worked with him today for about an hour and a half after practice and it showed late in the game.

“But so far I’m impressed with what I’ve seen. He got right into the swing of things. He even knows what a high five is.”

Gudmundsson, 27, is the only native of Iceland to play in the National Basketball Assn. He played at the University of Washington. Selected by Portland in the third round of the 1981 draft, he averaged 3.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 68 games for the Trail Blazers in 1981-82, his only NBA season.

He played in England last season and in Iceland two years ago, where he also coached, before coming back to the United States.

“Tonight exceeded all of my expectations,” Gudmundsson said. “It’s a super feeling. I thought I’d get a few minutes, but Kareem got into foul trouble and I got more minutes than I thought. These guys are great ballpayers. They didn’t hesitate to give me the ball.”

The crowd really got behind Gudmundsson, giving him a couple of standing ovations.

“They (the fans) really helped me a lot. As soon as I stepped on the floor I felt they were behind me,” he said. “I haven’t practiced with the team yet, I’ve only played one-on-one with Bertka, so I don’t know the system.

“I’ve done some coaching overseas, so that helps me to understand the plays easier.”

Said Magic Johnson: “I didn’t really remember too much about Petur. “I kind of remember his days in Portland, but I didn’t know how he would respond. He gave us a good effort. He will really be a big help for Kareem. Cap (Abdul-Jabbar) needs those minutes on the bench.

“He plays like a 7-footer,” Johnson added. “He so big that he takes up a lot of room.

Said Abdul-Jabbar: “He gave us some great minutes tonight. If he can keep that level of play up he will be a big asset to this team.”

Said Michael Cooper: “I didn’t know how good Petur was. I didn’t know if he could hit or not. I’m glad that he responded the way he did. He was great. I think he’s going to really be a big help for us come playoff time. He’ll stay on this team. He’s got a big body. You just don’t let big bodies get away.”

Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers with 20 points in 28 minutes, and James Worthy had 18 points.

Abdul-Jabbar also got into a brief scuffle in the first half with Spur center Artis Gilmore. Abdul-Jabbar dropped his goggles as if he was ready to fight, but the officials quickly stepped in between them.

“It was just a moment of temporary insanity,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

Johnson had 16 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds, and Maurice Lucas tied his season-high with 14 rebounds. He also had 12 points. Scott added 13 points, making 6 of 13 shots.

Mike McGee came off the bench to score 12 points, and A.C. Green scored 11 points, hitting all four shots he took from the field.

The Spurs made a brief comeback in the third quarter, cutting the Lakers’ lead to five points a couple of times. The Lakers shot just 33.3% in the third quarter, hitting 7 of 21 shots from the floor.

“We went after people and made things happen,” Spur Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons said of his team’s third-quarter comeback. “In the third quarter we wanted to punish them the way they were punishing us out there.”

But Gudmundson got hot in the fourth quarter, with 9 points and 6 rebounds.

Alvin Robertson led the Spurs with 18 points, and Gilmore added 17.

San Antonio has lost three straight, 9 of its last 10 and 16 of its last 18 games.

“I would go crazy if I would try to think about the way we have played and the injuries we have had in our last 18 games,” Fitzsimmons said.