CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kwame Brown threw down a dunk in front of Chris Mihm during yesterday's practice at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Lakers filling hole in middle
Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown are left alone when Vlade Divac retires
As the Los Angeles Lakers parted ways with one of their big men yesterday, the two remaining approach the new season as a fresh start.
For Kwame Brown, his first time around in Los Angeles is a chance to put a turbulent run in Washington behind him.
For Chris Mihm, he enters his second season as the Lakers' starting center, but his first encounter with Phil Jackson's triangle offense
"It's a clean slate," Mihm said after the Lakers' practice yesterday at the Stan Sheriff Center. "Any time you have a new coaching staff come in, everything's up for grabs. It's been a competitive training camp and I think everybody's on the same page."
Center Vlade Divac, who played eight of his 16 NBA seasons with the Lakers, will not figure into the team's plans after being placed on waivers yesterday. Although he was on the precamp roster, the Lakers weren't counting on Divac to contribute this season following back surgery.
Whether rookie center Andrew Bynum will be with the team this season also remains in question, as the Lakers may send the 7-foot 17-year-old to the NBA's Developmental League to gain game experience.
In the meantime, the Lakers look for Brown and Mihm to provide a presence in the post in the second year of the post-Shaq era in Los Angeles.
Three days into training camp, Jackson anticipates Mihm will start at center, with Brown at power forward along with small forward Lamar Odom and guard Kobe Bryant. He hasn't decided on a front-runner for the other guard spot.
Mihm stepped into the lineup last season after the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to Miami and Divac went to the injured list with a herniated disc. He started 75 games and averaged 9.8 points and 6.7 rebounds while filling an unenviable role as O'Neal's replacement at center.
"We play two totally different games," said Mihm, a 7-foot, 265-pounder out of Texas. "He's a phenomenal player who's going to be a Hall of Famer. I never put it on myself to step into his shoes. I came in with a clean slate, knowing I could show the fans what I could do."
With Jackson returning to the Lakers' bench after a year out of coaching, Mihm is gradually becoming more comfortable in the triangle offense.
"With the ball going into the post, it allows me to pass the ball a lot and hit guys cutting and moving," Mihm said. "You get a lot of motion and it opens a lot of things up for me and guys on the perimeter."
Brown is also trying to pick up the intricacies of the system after being acquired by the Lakers in a trade with Washington in the offseason.
After missing 40 games due to a broken bone in his foot and a strained ankle tendon last season, Brown said he still isn't quite at full strength. But he's happy just to be in training camp after missing last year's preseason with the Wizards.
"A lot of stuff in this offense you have to learn and it's got to be smooth," Brown said. "It's got to be natural and right now I'm just trying to remember the spots I'm supposed to be in and that's not going to work in a game situation."
Jackson said the 6-foot-11 Brown can contribute as a backup center as well as at power forward and the Lakers hope he can give them an inside presence as they work toward a return to the playoffs.
"There's a world of talent there that we're watching unfold," Jackson said. "He's got a great attitude, he's a willing learner and he's picking things up as he goes along."
Brown joined the Lakers following a rocky four-year stint with the Wizards, who in 2001 made him the first high schooler to be selected with the top pick in the NBA Draft. He was suspended during the playoffs last season, effectively ending his year.
With his change of scenery, he's anxious to leave the issues back on the East Coast.
"I wish the Washington questions would stop," Brown said. "I just want that to be over. I know Washington's not thinking about me, I'm not thinking about Washington. I've got enough to worry about in L.A."
Divac was limited to 15 games last season due to injuries and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said it's possible he could remain involved with the organization.
"I don't think there's any doubt he's the premier European player to play in the NBA," Kupchak said.
The Lakers signed 7-foot Adam Parada to give the team another big man to compete in practice.
Warriors hurting: Golden State forwards Troy Murphy and rookie Chris Taft sat out practice yesterday with injuries.
Murphy sprained his right ankle in practice Wednesday and Taft suffered a strained right groin Tuesday.
Golden State is holding training camp at BYU-Hawaii before playing two preseason games against the Lakers next Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.