With center Andrew Bynum sidelined by a knee injury until at least April and fellow 7-footer Chris Mihm traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers have turned to seldom-used forward Josh Powell for help in the middle.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson doesn't have many alternatives.
"It depends on how the game goes, how big the other players are," Jackson said when asked about playing Powell more frequently. "But, yes, he has as bigger role."
So far, so good for Powell and the Lakers.
Powell responded to his enhanced role by scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the Lakers' victory Wednesday night over the Golden State Warriors, the team's first game after trading Mihm for a conditional draft pick
Powell served as starting center Pau Gasol's backup against Golden State and also filled in for power forward Lamar Odom, who sat out because of foul trouble for much of the second quarter. Powell played almost 25 minutes.
"Every chance to play is rewarding," he said.
Powell also said it was "a blessing" to sign with the Lakers as a free agent last summer after stops in Dallas, Indiana, Golden State and the Clippers in his three-season professional career. He had no idea what to expect when he joined his fifth NBA team.
"Whatever role I'm able to fill, I'm willing to do that," Powell said, shrugging. "I'm on the best team in the league, playing with the Lakers, playing with some of the best guys
in the league. So, there's a lot to be thankful for."
Hornets' nest: The Lakers play host to New Orleans tonight and fully expect to see Tyson Chandler back in a Hornets uniform.
Chandler was traded earlier this week to Oklahoma City, but the deal was rescinded when the 7-foot center failed a physical Wednesday.
Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and draft pick DeVon Hardin also returned to the Thunder. No reason was given for Chandler's physical failure.
"That happened ... with Sean Elliott going from San Antonio to Detroit?" Jackson said when asked about Chandler. "He came back home and played well and didn't feel slighted."
Chandler, a standout at Dominguez Hill School in Compton, has had many happy returns to Staples Center.
"I was kind of happy Chandler was traded," Jackson said. "He comes home to L.A. all the time and has a great game and just kicks our butts. He comes home and has fun on our court, and that's no good for us. He'll be out there (tonight)."
Jackson notes that the Hornets have " struggled a little bit for whatever reason. They haven't been quite as focused as they were last year, but they're still a very good team. When they focus, they can be very, very tough."
New Orleans finished second to the Lakers in the Western Conference last season. But the Hornets (32-20) trail the league-leading Lakers (44-10) by 11 games.