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Shaq who? OK, it might be (and probably is) still early to say, but if Chris Mihm keeps performing like he did against the Denver Nuggets in the Laker’s season opening game, then Laker fans won’t be pining too wistfully for their departed Shaq-daddy.
In a surprising, and surprising is an understatement, newly acquired center, Chris Mihm matching a career-high of 23 points on 8-16 shooting, along with 12 rebounds, in 35 minutes of playing time, as the Lakers defeated the Nuggets 89-78 at home.
The Lakers had acquired Mihm over the summer from the Boston Celtics, along with guards Chucky Atkins and Jumaine Jones for Gary Payton, Rick Fox, and a future first round draft pick.
Mihm is entering his fifth NBA season. Entering the league, he was a relatively highly-touted center, which was a big thing in light of the league’s lack of talented 7-footers. He was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 7th overall draft pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. He was traded later that day to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Jamal Crawford, who was the Cav’s eighth overall draft pick.
While Cleveland may be kicking themselves for that deal – Crawford has since flourished, averaging 17.3 points for the Bull’s last season before signing a lucrative long-term contract with the Knicks this offseason, Mihm has toiled in relative obscurity.
Coming of a successful collegiate career at Texas University where he had averaged 17.7 points and 10.5 rebounds in his last year (junior), Mihm had a promising rookie campaign despite 23 games to injury. He had 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in less than 20 minutes a game for the Cavs, earning a place on the All-NBA Rookie 2nd team. The Cavs were particularly excited of having Mihm team with 7’3” Zydrunas Ilgauskas for a formidable frontcourt. However it was not meant to be as Mihm became mired with a myriad of injuries. He missed 90 games because of injuries over the next two seasons, before finally being healthy last year. However, with the Cav’s frontcourt established with Ilgauskas and Carlos Boozer, Mihm found himself on the bench with a limited role for the team.
Mihm was traded to Boston in the middle of last season that also saw Cleveland’s Ricky Davis, Michael Stewart and a second-round draft pick go to Boston Eric Williams, Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown. In Boston, Mihm’s situation didn’t change as he had trouble getting use to the new system that already had Raef Lafrentz, Walter McCarty, Vin Baker, and Paul Pierce entrenched in their lineup.
Now in La-La Land, Mihm may finally get a chance to prove himself. With Brian Grant and the aging Vlade Divac as the other centers, opposing teams will be looking to exploit LA’s interior. Always a hard worker, Mihm may finally get a chance to show of his improved jumper, like he did last night. Of course, with increased minutes, he’ll have to prove that he is battle-ready and stay injury-free - he’ll need to if the Lakers expect to contend for a playoff spot.