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Sunday, July 11, 2010
Day Two Las Vegas Summer League Roundup

By Kevin Arnovitz

LAS VEGAS -- Large bags of ice are taped to Derrick Caracter's shoulders and knees as he sits on a folding chair beneath the bleachers of Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. The Lakers have just dropped a summer league game to the Nuggets, but Caracter continues to make the Lakers look smart for nabbing him with the 58th overall pick in last month's draft. After racking up 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Pistons on Friday, Caracter scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds on Saturday. Even though summer league is largely an exhibition to display individual talents, there's a tacit rule not to take too much pride in personal performance when your team loses. Still, as a late second-rounder who has been carrying baggage, Caracter's strong play has him in good spirits.

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
Derrick Caracter: When second-round picks look like first-rounders.

Few have ever doubted Caracter's raw talent as a basketball player, but his two years at Louisville furnished skeptics with plenty of material. After battling conditioning, academic and behavioral issues for two years, Caracter was dismissed from Louisville and ultimately landed at UTEP, where he began to rebuild his reputation as a brute force in the paint and a genial kid who just needed some time to mature.

That process continues here, as Caracter has dominated the low block on the offensive end of the floor during his first 28 hours in Las Vegas. Caracter gobbles up space by the yard down low. Both Friday and Saturday, he was the most physical presence on the court when the Lakers had the ball. Putbacks, explosions from the elbow, back-ins that leave defenders crumpled beneath the glass -- all of them are part of Caracter's repertoire.

"It's really about positioning and there are tricks," Caracter said before chuckling. "I like to look a guy in the eyes -- not intimidate him, but to talk to him with my eyes and read what he's thinking. Sometimes I'll post up hard, and sometimes I'll give him a different position so he never truly knows. That makes it hard to match my strength."

Caracter can't just throw his weight around indiscriminately. He has to conform to the triangle offense under Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person's direction. Does the structure hamper his game at all?

"I was talking to Coach Chuck [Person] about this today," Caracter said. "If one guy gets a little confused out there -- which happens to all of us because we just learned it like two weeks ago -- if he forgets something, there's a domino effect in the triangle. It's not like a regular system. It's all reading and playing off the other five guys on the court.  It definitely makes me a better player."