Lakers’ Troy Murphy could start at center Tuesday

It hasn’t been the easiest season for Troy Murphy.

He has slipped in and out of the rotation, averaging 3.3 points and 3.4 rebounds, though he might be the Lakers’ starting center Tuesday against New Jersey.

There are early indications Andrew Bynum won’t be out long with a moderately sprained left ankle, but Murphy started at center when the Lakers took the court for the second half of their 120-112 victory Sunday against Golden State.

“Hopefully he gets back soon, but I’m just ready to play whenever I have to,” said Murphy, who had eight points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes. “It’s difficult going in and playing three or four minutes at a time like I’ve been doing the last few weeks. Any time you can get in there and get up and down the court more often, you feel comfortable.”

Murphy, 31, was a top-notch rebounder and smooth shooter until his production dropped dramatically last season.

He hurt his back two weeks before the 2010-11 season opener and averaged only 3.1 points and 3.2 rebounds with New Jersey and Boston. The previous two seasons, he averaged 14.4 points and 11 rebounds for Indiana while shooting an impressive 41.8% from three-point range.

The Lakers are a completely different team with Murphy at center. He hangs out around the perimeter instead of Bynum’s typical spot down low and has made a solid 28 of his 66 three-point attempts (42.4%) for the Lakers, who signed him to a one-year contract for about $1.4 million.

Murphy, however, doesn’t have anything resembling Bynum’s post game. The Lakers will also miss Bynum’s defense. He was averaging 2.02 blocked shots a game, fifth in the league.

Bynum was averaging 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds in 35.9 minutes before leaving Sunday’s game in the first quarter.

Recently acquired power forward Jordan Hill has been sidelined since aggravating a sprained knee ligament in pregame warmups last week. It is unclear whether he will be available for use Tuesday.

Trickle-down effect

Kobe Bryant’s not the only Lakers player trying to avoid the fatigue of a lockout-condensed season.

Pau Gasol will almost surely get more playing time as long as Bynum is sidelined. Gasol, 31, is second on the team in minutes, averaging 37.2. He finished Sunday’s game with 26 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes.

“You’re going to be a little tired, you’re going to be a little sore and you have to fight through it,” said Gasol, who has been bothered by bursitis in his left elbow.

“There’s just no way around it. You don’t need to think about how exhausting this is. You’ve just got to keep in your mind that it’s getting closer to playoff time and we need to be ready for that time regardless of the fatigue, the amount of games that we’ve already played.”