Saturday, October 7, 2006
Mihm, slow to recover, targets late exhibitions
By KEVIN DING
The Orange County Register
EL SEGUNDO – The one Laker who faces the most realistic threat of not being ready for opening night Oct.31 is center Chris Mihm, whose surgically repaired right ankle continues to give him pain.
Mihm had arthroscopic surgery July 26 and was expected to be ready for the start of training camp, but his recovery has been slow. He is increasing his running on a daily basis, yet can't do much without the ankle bothering him.
"If it feels good enough, maybe I can get in one of the last preseason games, and that'd be great," Mihm said.
Mihm averaged a career-high 10.2 points last season, but missed 17 games with a severe sprain of that ankle before struggling through the regular-season finale and missing the playoffs.
It was a major loss given the Lakers' plan to pound the ball inside against Phoenix. But Mihm's injury, as Kwame Brown still says to this day, changed the scope of Brown's first Lakers season - and what Mihm called "by far my best season."
Brown stepped up to replace Mihm at center and started to show the skills that made him the No.1 overall pick in 2001. It altered the Lakers' vision to the point that as the summer began Coach Phil Jackson asked Mihm, who has a better jumper than Brown, to think about playing more power forward.
Even though the Lakers would like Brown to be flexible enough to play power forward, too, he has been slow to learn the wing aspects of the triangle offense despite playing that position much of last season. Brown has said repeatedly that he prefers the post, the easiest position in the triangle.
Brown has been impressive in early training-camp scrimmages, being properly patient and aggressive with his offensive attacks. He has improved his leg strength, which was lacking last season because of his 2004 broken right foot.
"My legs faded on me late in the season," Brown said.
But while Brown has been active, Mihm has been inactive. Jackson said Monday that Mihm's recovery "is a lot slower than we anticipated" and noted how important a healthy Mihm will be for the Lakers' interior depth, as Andrew Bynum remains in the developmental stage.
Although the Lakers would seem to have their 15-man roster likely set, part of that includes 12-year veteran guard Aaron McKie living up to his $2.5million guaranteed contract. McKie, 34, was limited to 121 minutes last season because of a torn left quadriceps tendon.
The Lakers hope he is healthy enough to give them experience, defensive instincts and offensive understanding this season. Otherwis, they would have to consider eating or settling his guaranteed salary.
"It's just physically whether or not he's able to keep up with everything that's going on and compete for a spot," acting coach Kurt Rambis said.
McKie left practice early Friday because of back soreness.