Jackson has time to think about center, point guard
HONOLULU -- Help wanted: two positions.
Short of hanging out a shingle, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has thrown open a pair of training-camp battles, one a four-man race at point guard, the other a three-man race at center.
Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum will be fighting to start in the middle, and Javaris Crittenton, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic are trying to wrestle minutes from Derek Fisher at one of the guard spots.
Bynum has looked better on defense with his rebounding and shot-blocking so far, while Mihm has survived his first practices in almost 17 months after sitting out last season because of ankle surgery. Brown is not doing contact drills for at least a week, but he also figures into the mix as the Oct. 30 opener gets closer.
Jackson didn’t give any of the three an edge.
“It doesn’t matter, but I don’t have a sense of it right now,” he said, deferring to the eight upcoming exhibition games. “There’s a good chance we’ll play all three of them.”
Fisher is expected to start next to Kobe Bryant in the backcourt, but the 33-year-old will be spelled plenty and his backup remains a mystery, although one of the frothier battles of camp so far has been the daily head-to-heads between Crittenton, this year’s first-round pick, and Farmar, last year’s first-rounder.
Crittenton, listed at 6 feet 5 and selected 19th overall, is three inches taller than Farmar and has already made somewhat of an impression.
“We’ll see more obviously as exhibition games ensue, but at this point, he’s got the skills that we like,” Jackson said. “He’s got the speed, he’s got the verve. He takes the risks that I think are important for a guard and knows the value of the ball.”
Crittenton penetrates well, but he needs to work on his shooting to become a more complete player.
Jackson knows what he gets with Fisher, chiefly an upgrade over Smush Parker, who became peeved and moody last season after his playing time was shortened.
“Fish makes big shots. He’s a guy that gets the ball back for you on the defensive end by taking charges, getting steals,” Jackson said. “Smush . . . was a sniper, one of the top steals leaders and had the ability to do some things extending the defense. It kind of opened up our defense at times and let us be penetrable.”
Bryant, obviously, will start, but he might set up shop in a different spot on the floor on offense.
He has become comfortable in the wing but will move farther toward the top of the lane when the season begins.
“I kind of told him he’s had off the last couple of years,” Jackson said. “He’s just kind of hedged on there in the wing, and hung out and played one-on-one, and pick and choose. I think our offense needs to have him as a distributor. He needs to get that mind-set back about being a playmaker and distributor. He’s had his opportunity in scoring and being a great scorer.”
Left unsaid by Jackson is the necessity to jump-start Lamar Odom in the beginning of games, along with getting the starting center activated on offense.
After an utterly forgettable first season with the Lakers, Vladimir Radmanovic has been shooting well from the outside in training camp.
“He looks more like a ballplayer than a snowboarder to me,” Jackson said dryly.
Individual Lakers home game tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. at all Ticketmaster locations, ticketmaster.com and at (800) 4NBATIX.
About 1,000 tickets are available for each home game, with a limit of four tickets per person per game. Tickets will not be available for purchase at the Staples Center box office.