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Andrew Bynum could return to practice court next week, will start when returns

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It’s not like the Lakers are struggling, they are 5-0 and with one of the best point differentials in the league. Kobe is clearly 100 percent, playing in the World Championships has Lamar Odom in midseason form, Gasol is Gasol, and Steve Blake and Matt Barnes are fitting in well.

But it is all about the Lakers offense. It is fantastic — Los Angeles is putting up more points per possession than any team in the NBA, 117 per 100 possess. But their defense has been average — 13th in the league at 103.8 points per 100 possessions.

The reason is that they don’t have a real shot blocking presence in the lane. But there is good news on that front. Well, if you’re a Lakers fan.

Andrew Bynum could return to the practice court as soon as next week, Phil Jackson said, as reported by Mike Trudell He is almost fully back to “load bearing activities” — running on the treadmill — and next up is basketball activities in practice. The first steps toward games and a return in a few weeks.

When he does return, Jackson said Bynum would start and Odom would go to the bench, according to the Land O’ Lakers blog. This is what Jackson did in the past, for a couple reasons. One is that Odom is more mature of the two and better able to mentally handle the bench role.

Second is to keep Bynum warm — he comes out and warms up pregame, and when he sat then came in off the bench he seemed to spend time just getting lose again. When he just came in he was much more of a force in the game.

That may be around the end of the month, if he really is back on the practice court next week.

Tony Parker wants to play six more seasons with Spurs

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker revealed a plan nearly two years ago to play until he’s 38.

Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, the Spurs point guard is sticking to that goal.

Parker, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

“The Spurs know I want to play until I’m 38,” Parker told Yahoo Sports in a recent phone interview. “That will be 20 seasons for me. That’s my goal. This year is No. 15. And if I’m lucky enough and I’m healthy, hopefully I can play 20 seasons and then I’ll be ready to retire.”

That seems pretty ambitious, no matter how you handle the conflicting math. (Parker is 33. If he plays 20 seasons, he’ll spend most of his final season at age 39 and turn 40 during the playoffs.)

Parker is already showing signs of slippage. Many of his key numbers were down last season, including ESPN’s real-plus minus, where he quietly slipped from 12th to 67th among point guards.

But Gregg Popovich is very liberal with resting his players, and Parker won’t have to carry too much of the load. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will probably retire before Parker, but the Spurs will still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s possible Parker lasts that long.

Report: Pelicans signing Greg Smith

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The Pelicans starting center, Omer Asik, is injured.

Their backup center, Alexis Ajinca, is injured.

Enter Greg Smith.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Smith was part of the Rockets’ 2012-13 rotation, but otherwise, he has seen limited minutes in his four-year career with Houston and Dallas. In that small sample, he has looked alright. The 6-foot-10 24-year-old uses his big frame and massive hands to catch passes and finish efficiently near the rim. He has also become more disciplined defensively.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the regular-season roster behind the 13 Pelicans with guaranteed salaries.

But it’s also possible New Orleans signed him just an extra preseason body. That’d beat relying too heavily on the aging Kendrick Perkins and undersized Jeff Adrien at center. Anthony Davis is the Pelicans’ best option at center with Asik and Ajinca sidelined (and maybe even with them healthy), but the biggest drawback to playing him there is the injury risk. If Davis is going to deal with the banging at center, might as well save it for games that count.

Still, even New Orleans plans to keep Smith only through the preseason, this at least gives him a chance to impress.