Ask Joel: Will the Lakers sign a back-up center?

Ask Joel: Will the Lakers sign a back-up center?

Published Nov. 24, 2010 12:30 p.m. ET

By Joel Meyers

November 24, 2010

Joel Meyers returns from a recent three-game, four-day road trip through Milwaukee, Detroit and Minnesota to answer your questions. Check out previous columns here. This week, Meyers explains the plus/minus stat, addresses the hole in the roster created by the Theo Ratliff injury and talks about the best rebounders in the NBA today.

I still have trouble with the plus/minus stat (+/-). Can you explain it in simple terms so I can try to figure it out?
Sam L.
Pomona, CA


I will try to make as simple as possible when it comes to plus/minus. It basically tells you how the team did as far as the score is concerned while that player was on the floor. Let's use Pau Gasol as an example. He starts the game, leaving the floor with the Lakers up by 12 when he sits down. At that point of the game, Gasol is a plus-12. My biggest problem with the plus/minus stat is the lack of info that goes along with it when it comes to matchups. A player can be out there surrounded by guys from the second unit, facing mostly the first unit from the opposition. His plus/minus is most likely going to suffer from situations he has no control over. What a player does with his minutes means a lot more to me and doesn't have anything to do with the stat sheet. Stu Lantz and I talk all the time about things a player can do that never shows up in a box. So I never get too carried away with the plus/minus numbers.

Will the Lakers sign a back-up center and who may be the front runner?
Tracy, CA


I like the makeup of this team right now, so I'm not all that inclined to adding anyone. Hopefully Andrew Bynum will be back in the next two to three weeks and then Theo Ratliff follows with his return not long after that.

Derrick Caracter can give the Lakers some minutes down low to help out when the matchups dictate a need in that direction. But I hope the Lakers ride it out for the time being with the 14 they have now. Don't forget, there really aren't that many teams with a serious post presence. The Lakers will see the Bulls twice over the next two weeks and they are one of the few teams that have some size and depth down low. The first matchup Tuesday night was without Carlos Boozer, while he may be back for the second one in Chicago on Dec. 10.

The recent blowouts have also helped, reducing the minutes for both Gasol and Lamar Odom. Now if those two have to play a few extra minutes over the next two weeks, it shouldn't be as bad.

Chick Hearn would always refer to the Lakers after they came off a championship season as the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers. You don't seem to do that. I'd like to know your thoughts on this.
John W.
Huntington Beach, CA


I am glad you brought this subject up. Stu and I were just talking about it while we were on the road last week and we both feel that it was appropriate when Chick Hearn was calling the games. But things have changed a lot in basketball over the last 10-15 years. Last year, I was referring to the Lakers as the world champs in honor of what the greatest announcer to ever call a basketball game, Chick Hearn, would have gone with. The game has advanced so much though all over the globe, maybe it is time we called the champions of our league, simply the NBA champs. From time to time at STAPLES Center, I'll look up on the wall and call them the world champions. But the teams from Spain, Argentina and other countries have shown us how good they're playing the game all over the world.

Kevin Love's 30-30 game was pretty amazing and he has really been dominating the boards this year. Who is the best rebounder in the NBA right now?
Elliot F.
Monterey, CA


That's a really tough question. The big man the Lakers are going to see twice over the next two weeks, Joakim Noah of the Bulls, is one of the most passionate rebounders I have seen in a long, long time. What Kevin Love did two weeks ago was absolutely amazing. Stu and I have talked about the lost art of rebounding and the resurgence that we've also seen with some of the younger guys coming into the league. I watched Love again the other night and it was fun to see a guy truly pursue the ball. Too many big men now simply watch the ball around the rim and never put a body on a body. If you want to see someone who is an old school kind of rebounder, watch Paul Milsap of the UUtah Jazz. He reminds me of two of my favorites, Paul Silas and Bill Bridges, you don't have to be 6'10 or 6'11 to be a great rebounder. Millsap, Silas and Bridges are all between 6'6 and 6'8. Millsap just outworks people, like Silas and Bridges did. David Lee plays with a great motor when it comes to working on the boards. So it would be easy to single out big guys like Dwight Howard and some others that are an imposing physical presence, but I'd rather watch some of the undersized guys that do all the little things well to get a rebound.


The Lakers bench has been unreal this year. Who in your opinion has been the Lakers' best role player duing the Kobe Bryant era? I think Robert Horry. But there have been some good ones.
Nick K.
Playa Del Rey, CA

You're right. Robert Horry does stand out when you look back over the past decade and the guys that delivered in the clutch from off the bench. Phil Jackson was just asked if this was his deepest bench since he's been with the Lakers. Jackson said it was a tough call, but he thought his first four reserves at the start of the three titles in 2001,02, and 03 were his best in L.A. Robert Horry led the way, with Rick Fox, Brian Shaw and a young Derek Fisher. While Horry hit the memorable shots, don't minimize the roles that Shaw and  Fox played. They were both outstanding veteran leaders on the floor as well as in the locker room and both didn't mind mixing it up at the defensive end. I will also never forget Fish coming back from an injury during the end of the regular season, then hitting an astronomical number from beyond the arc during the postseason. Great memories, great Lakers.

Finally, Fernando Rea put together an interesting piece on the emergence of Shannon Brown and whether or not he is a contender for the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards. Click here to check it out on
Thank you for all of your questions and comments. Joel would like to answer as many questions from Los Angeles Lakers fans as possible. Click here for possible inclusion in a future Ask Joel column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content. Please include your name and location along with your question.