Reporting from Milwaukee —
The Lakers aren’t content to wait for Andrew Bynum’s return.
They’re looking to add a big man after losing reserve center Theo Ratliff for at least four to six weeks because of surgery on his left knee.
“We have to have some support there interim until Andrew comes back,” Coach Phil Jackson said Tuesday.
Bynum is expected to return around Thanksgiving from off-season knee surgery.
“Sounds about right, sir,” he said in a brief interview.
The Lakers will talk to the representative for free-agent Erick Dampier, though it might not be a good match for either side. Dampier will want more than a short-term contract, and the Lakers are looking for a little more mobility in the post.
Teams cannot offer free agents 10-day contracts until later in the season, but they can currently pay signees on a daily or weekly basis.
The Lakers currently have the highest payroll in the league ($95.6 million) and are projected to pay an additional $25.3 million in luxury taxes, but they have only 14 players on their roster, one below the NBA maximum.
One of the candidates for a spot was Jake Voskuhl, 33, who the Lakers believe would be an active defender and rebounder despite career averages of 3.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocked shots a game. He played for five teams in a nine-year career and did not play in the NBA last season.
There are few free-agent big men available, but Steven Hunter and Sean May aren’t on NBA rosters after spending last season with Memphis and Sacramento, respectively. May was waived by New Jersey after sustaining a stress fracture in his left foot before training camp.
The Lakers haven’t been big users of short-term contracts, signing only two players to 10-day deals in the last six seasons (DJ Mbenga and Ira Newble, both in 2008).
Mbenga spent parts of three seasons with the Lakers before signing a one-year contract with New Orleans during the off-season. He was averaging 0.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.5 minutes a game for the Hornets.
In the short term, Ratliff’s absence would apparently mean more work for rookie Derrick Caracter, but the second-round pick didn’t even enter Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee. He is averaging 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds in 5.7 minutes a game.
Ratliff, 37, was averaging a meager 0.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.3 minutes a game and felt continual soreness in his left knee. He had cartilage removed Tuesday by team doctor Steve Lombardo.
Lamar Odom would be only a temporary option for the Lakers at center despite playing the position for Team USA at the world championships two months ago.
“Yeah, that’s a different type of basketball,” Jackson said.
Odom played center briefly in two different quarters Tuesday against Milwaukee, taking over when Pau Gasol checked out for a minute or two each time.
Odom had been bothered by a bone bruise in his right foot and had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes against Milwaukee.
“I guess it’s just wear and tear of basketball,” he said with a shrug. “Ice it and play through the pain.”
He has also been receiving electro-stim therapy on the foot.
“Might as well be proactive with it and take care of it as much as possible,” he said.
Odom came up with a big play late in Tuesday’s game, tipping in Kobe Bryant’s miss to give the Lakers a comfortable 114-104 lead with 1:44 to play.