Lakers not likely to sign a stopgap center

The Lakers aren’t expected to sign a free-agent center to fill the gap between now and Andrew Bynum’s return in the next couple of weeks.

The situation could change, but they’ve currently decided against adding a veteran big man in part because it would cost about $35,000 a week in non-guaranteed salary and another $35,000 in luxury taxes per week.

The Lakers have a $95.6-million payroll, the league’s largest, and lost some depth last week when reserve center Theo Ratliff was sidelined at least three to five more weeks after surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee.

The Lakers’ mild interest in Erick Dampier became even more muted because he wanted a guaranteed contract for the rest of the season, which he received this week from the Miami Heat. The Lakers also pondered veteran backups Jake Voskuhl, who didn’t play in the NBA last season, and Paul Davis, who played two games for the Washington Wizards last season.

Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have played extra minutes in the absence of Bynum and, to a lesser degree, Ratliff. Gasol played 45 minutes and Odom played 41 in the Lakers’ 102-96 loss Friday against Utah.

“I don’t expect anything to happen and if it does, so be it,” Gasol said. “I always face reality. Sometimes it’s not easy to play 40-plus [minutes], but I think we’re managing very well. I don’t feel over-fatigued or anything.”


Bynum is still recovering from off-season knee surgery but might begin practicing next week. In fact, he worked out for an hour on the court before Friday’s game, shooting from the outside and working on his post game while being guarded lightly by assistant coaches Brian Shaw and Chuck Person.

All done?

The cross-country banter that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson started earlier this week was finally ended Friday night in Utah … perhaps.

Jackson said he had “no idea” his comments about a possible coaching change in Miami would cause such a ruckus.

“I haven’t been to the Sunshine State for a long time and I don’t know what tickled their fancy down there so much about that statement,” Jackson said Friday. “I didn’t realize that Stan was that sensitive about the issue, and that’s unfortunate.”

Stan would be Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy, who jumped to the defense of Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra this week after Jackson said Spoelstra might eventually be replaced by Pat Riley if the Heat didn’t improve.

Van Gundy said at the time that Jackson’s comments were “inappropriate” and “ignorant.”

Turkey Trotters

For what it’s worth, the Lakers’ big men scored a rare three-point victory over the guards in the team’s annual Turkey Trot scrimmage.

“For the second time only in the history of the game, the big guys won,” Jackson said.

Odom, trying not to smile, said, “They played hard, but we were determined and we made the most plays down the stretch.”

Neither Kobe Bryant nor Gasol played in the scrimmage Thursday.

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.