Like I mentioned when the signing of Theo Ratliff was announced, he'll be playing the role of D.J. Mbenga, only with more seasoning and less reluctance. Assuming the big three of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are present and accounted for, I don't expect Ratliff to get much run. But between Bynum's history and the unpredictability of injuries, it's likely Ratliff will be pressed into heavier minutes at some point during the season. Assuming expectations and the duration of those stints are reasonable, I think he'll hold down the fort well enough.
Either way, he is a veteran presence with a defensive mindset and a terrific locker room rep. You can never have enough of those dudes around. Last Friday, Ratliff spoke with the media about the upcoming season and the years leading up to it: Among the talking points:
- Ratliff is excited to be in a position where "championship" can be added to a long, fruitful, yet jewelry-free NBA resume. He understands the value of his services, but it's nonetheless pretty flattering when the top dogs extend an invite. "To be wanted by a team that's won a championship two years in a row is a great feeling," smiled Ratliff. Beyond the "rush" the big man still gets from hitting the hardwood, the quest for a title is what has kept him going this long.
"All the things I've been through, as far as the injuries, all of the workouts and the rehab I've done, it's always been to get to the point where I can win a championship."
-Ratliff's next season will feature a new uni, but his responsibilities remain the same as always: Plugging the middle. Rebounding. Altering shots. Being "tenacious" and a "defensive stopper" while protecting the purple and gold cup.
- Ratliff credits mineral supplements for a new-found ability to remain healthy after several seasons plagued with bad injuries. "That's been pretty much my savior, learning about mineral deficiencies that my body was going through while it was breaking down," explained the veteran big. Specifically, he consumes plant-derived and body-absorbed minerals, describing the process as an underrated necessity for athletes:
"You sweat out a lot of your minerals, but you don't understand what you're sweating out. You just taste the salt. But you have 90 different minerals in your body that you're sweating out while you're playing and you become deficient in those minerals and your body starts breaking down."
A daily intake of those 90 minerals, however, "changed [Ratliff's] whole world." As he marveled, "It definitely has me at this point, when people see me play, they don't see a 37 year-old guy that went through five or six major injuries. They see a guy that still has a lot of pop in his step, a lot of leaping ability."
By the way, Land O' Lakers officially has a new nickname for Theo Ratliff, and as you probably guessed, it's "Minerals." We're in no way mocking the legitimacy of Ratliff's regimen, but in all my years at this job, I've never heard the phrase "minerals" repeated so many times. Hell, I've never heard phrase uttered at all. Brian and I got way too big a kick of out Ratliff's mineral devotion to let it go, and for his part, Theo seemed like he could handle a little ribbing. Upon introducing myself after the presser, I noted how Ratliff will have the entire local media sucking down minerals by the time the season ends, and he laughed.
- Ratliff talked about Bynum's potential -- basically, limitless -- and the pleasure he'd take passing down the wisdom he's gained through the years. "Just the manhood knowledge that I have." Having been taken under the wings of guys like Joe Dumars, Rick Mahorn and Otis Thorpe, Ratliff has been a steady practitioner in the art of paying it forward. My guess is Bynum will soak up whatever Ratliff says, but were that not the case, it wouldn't be the first time:
"A few guys listened, some don't, and then they come back later on and say, 'I wish I listened to you a lot more.' "