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Abdul-Jabbar Hooks On With Lakers as Assistant

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Times Staff Writer

When he was drafted by the Lakers a couple of months ago, Andrew Bynum, 17 and fresh out of high school, announced that his future lay in the past.

“I actually want to bring back the sky hook,” he said.

He’ll have help.

The Lakers have brought back Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who mastered that shot to a degree that enabled him to become the greatest scorer in NBA history. The Lakers announced Friday that they have added the 58-year-old Hall of Fame center and six-time MVP to their coaching staff. Abdul-Jabbar will work with the team’s big men -- Bynum, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm.

Brown, 23, who also turned pro straight out of high school, came to the Lakers in a trade this summer after struggling with the Washington Wizards for four seasons. Mihm, 26, who joined the Lakers in a trade with the Boston Celtics before last season, is a five-year veteran.

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“Andrew will be the primary person Kareem works with,” Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak said, “but we would hope that the other big men would be as receptive. It is unusual for us to have so many big guys who are so young.

“In the last 10 years, we did not have a group that would have been as receptive.”

Translation: There was no way Shaquille O'Neal was going to be an eager pupil under professor Abdul-Jabbar.

“This is a natural fit,” Kupchak said. “Kareem has expressed an interest in coaching. At this stage of his life, I think he really wants to do this.”

Abdul-Jabbar, who was unavailable for comment, had expressed an interest in coaching for some time. His introverted personality was thought to be a hindrance to his ability to communicate with players, a failing he has admitted many times.

He has been a volunteer assistant with a high school team on an Arizona Indian reservation, has coached a minor league professional team in Oklahoma City and has worked with NBA players such as Shawn Bradley and Michael Olowokandi.

Abdul-Jabbar will begin working with Bynum next week. He also will accompany the Lakers to Hawaii for their preseason training camp and will work with the team at home during the season.

Considering the problems the Lakers have had in the frontcourt since O'Neal’s departure, might Abdul-Jabbar suit up himself at some point?

“Well, he’s stayed lean,” Kupchak said, tongue in cheek. “We just might play him a little bit.”


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