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Still New Kid on This Block
10:00 PM PDT on Thursday, October 5, 2006
EL SEGUNDO - When Von Wafer drove to the basket and had his shot rejected by Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown yelled, "Yeah 'Drew, get that (shot)!"
If Bynum is to find a steady role with the Lakers this season, defense likely will be his ticket.
Bynum won't turn 19 until Oct. 27, and his body still is developing, but he has grown an inch to 7-foot-1 and has the long arms to be a good shot-blocker.
"I'm playing defense a lot better, which I think surprised a lot of people," Bynum said after practice Thursday. "My offense, I'm working on that, but I'm just focused on playing defense and getting rebounds, and I'm doing that pretty well."
Bynum didn't play much last year as a rookie, but that could all change early this season.
Chris Mihm had right ankle surgery in July, hasn't been able to practice and has no timetable for his return. That could leave Bynum backing up Brown at center.
"I knew Chris had his surgery in late summer, so I prepared for the back-up center role," Bynum said.
Kobe Bryant walked past Bynum, grabbed his biceps and joked, "Look at that boy. He's eating all my pancakes. He's getting bigger."
Actually, 15 pounds bigger.
"I lost a lot of baby fat and then gained some muscle," Bynum said. "I feel stronger. My initial off-the-block, as far as getting up and down the court, is better from all the squats I was doing. I'm able to contest shots that I couldn't get to last year."
New Ball? Who Cares?
For the first time in 35 years, the NBA has introduced a new basketball, and it has caused an outcry from many players. But not in Lakersland.
Bryant and Lamar Odom both noticed the difference between the old leather ball and the new microfiber composite ball, and both like the old ball better. The new ball apparently is especially slippery, and even more so when wet.
But Bryant and Odom grew up playing on the playgrounds and don't see what the big deal is.
"It's just a ball," Bryant said. "Growing up, I played with all kinds of balls. I rolled up tape and used tape as a basketball. I played with a sock. I think I can play with this one."
Odom said it's possible that an early-season game will be lost because a player loses his grip on a slick ball. But he wasn't too worried.
"For guys like me who had to play in the park and shovel snow (and) played with a handball, a tennis ball," Odom said, "it doesn't make a difference."
More Lakers Notes
Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said Coach Phil Jackson was home feeling well and walking with a cane after undergoing right hip replacement surgery Tuesday. "He's more upright, too, which is probably something hard to believe," Rambis joked. "Now he's, like, 7-foot-5. Naw, he's doing well."
Smush Parker was back practicing after taking off Wednesday because of a sprained shoulder.
Reach Broderick Turner at bturner@PE.com