Lakers' Theo Ratliff back at practice

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The front end of the Lakers' center rotation has been intact since Andrew Bynum returned to the lineup last month. Sunday during practice, they took a step towards getting the back end whole as well.

Veteran center Theo Ratliff, who on Nov. 17 underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to perform a partial meniscectomy on his left knee, returned to the practice floor.

The 37-year-old Ratliff, a 15-year NBA veteran, hasn't played since Nov. 9. In eight games, he's averaging 0.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks a game.

"He was out there for most of the practice. Because we have four centers he wasn't on the floor all the time, but he did pretty well," coach Phil Jackson said of Ratliff's effort. "Everything everyone else did. We played some full court, played some half court, we ran some transition things. He did pretty good."

The Lakers will wait to see how Ratliff responds to the day's activity before attempting to project when he might return to the lineup.

Jackson acknowledged Ratliff likely won't see significant minutes once he returns, but finds value in his presence beyond providing an insurance policy in case Bynum or Pau Gasol find themselves in foul trouble.

"He is going to be necessary. He gives us an opportunity to send Derrick Caracter down to the D-League and get some playing experience, which is important," Jackson said. "His practice, what he brings to practice, is kind of important, too. His experience, his ability to contest, it can change things up so we have to work a little harder [in practice]."

The Lakers play only two games this week before facing the Boston Celtics next Sunday at Staples Center. For the Lakers, who finished a stretch of four games in six nights with their 107-97 win over the Nuggets in Denver Friday night, extra days off are welcome.

"It's just about the opportunity to do some things at practice that we haven't [been able to do] for the last month, maybe," Jackson said. "At this time of the season you have to do some things that are different, and stretch some things out that you haven't done. And then physically guys have an opportunity to really get themselves ready."

Brian Kamenetzky is co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.