MILWAUKEE -- Los Angeles Lakers reserve center Theo Ratliff underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to perform a partial meniscectomy on his left knee, the team announced Tuesday.
The 30-minute procedure was performed by Lakers team orthopaedist Dr. Steve Lomardo in Los Angeles. The timetable for Ratliff's return is set at a minimum of 4-6 weeks.
"We're not surprised [about Ratliff's surgery]," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said after shootaround at the Bradley Center as his team prepared for Tuesday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks. "He's had some issues trying to get on the court after back-to-backs or practices and stuff. We knew something was going [on] even though he was game trying to go through it."
Ratliff produced averages of 0.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.63 blocks and 8.4 minutes in the eight games he played this season. He sat out the Lakers last two games before an MRI on Monday determined he would need surgery.
"I think some of that time off will do him some good and [he will] just come back ready to go," Kobe Bryant said about Ratliff.
With Andrew Bynum not expected to see game time until sometime in December, the team is considering a temporary solution at center so that Pau Gasol (38.7 minutes per game) and Lamar Odom (34.3 minutes) do not get worn down. Odom has already come down with a bone bruise in his right foot that he said stemmed from playing "a lot of basketball."
Odom was cleared to play against the Bucks after undergoing an MRI on the foot on Monday. He scored 13 points and grabbed seven boards in the Lakers' 118-107 win.
Bynum traveled with the team to Milwaukee, making his first road trip since the preseason.
When asked if Thanksgiving remained his target return date, Bynum told reporters, "That sounds about right."
Jackson previously said Bynum would return to practice last week, but that's yet to happen. He could undergo a light on-court workout with the team in Minnesota on Thursday, but his first full practice isn't likely to occur until sometime next week.
Still, Bynum is sticking to the Thanksgiving timetable.
"I don't want to change expectations," he said.
"We'll just have to short up a little bit here for the next month and put it together," Jackson said. "We'll look at some outside talent and see what's available out there to help us out, but there's nothing we have that guarantees we can bring in somebody to fit in."
One name the team has tossed around already is Erick Dampier. The 6-11, 265-pound center is 35 years old and looking for a team after a 14-year NBA career when he averaged 7.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game with Indiana, Golden State and Dallas.
Dampier averaged 6.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 55 games with the Mavericks last season and has received interest from the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets in recent weeks. A deal fell through in Houston after the team had concerns about Dampier's health.
Overall, the free-agent center crop is pretty barren after the Phoenix Suns signed Earl Barron and another journeyman, Dwayne Jones, who has had stints with five NBA teams, is headed to China. Other options include Marcus Cousin who was a late training camp cut by the San Antonio Spurs; Darryl Watkins who was in camp with the New Orleans Hornets; and Brian Zoubek who did not make the New Jersey Nets' final roster.
They could also go the NBA Development League route. Drew Naymick, who was a training camp invitee for Los Angeles, is playing for the Lakers' D-League affiliate in Bakersfield. The other top centers in the D-League include Courtney Sims of Iowa (who played on the Lakers' summer league team in Las Vegas), Cheikh Samb of Sioux Falls (who the Lakers drafted with the No. 51 pick in 2006), Chris Hunter of Fort Wayne, Sean Williams of Texas and Magnum Rolle of Maine.
Until Bynum returns or the Lakers sign a big body in the interim, the rotation is likely to stay close to the same as it was when Ratliff was available.
"We've been playing with this for a while so I don't think it's going to affect it that much," Jackson said. "[Gasol's and Odom's minutes] are still going to be up there in forties if they can hang out there on the court and not get in foul trouble."
Jackson said the two Lakers rookies -- 6-9, 275-pound Derrick Caracter and 6-9, 215-pound Devin Ebanks -- could both be counted on for more playing time.
"Both [Derrick] and Devin are going to have to be able to contribute," Jackson said. "I'm a little more comfortable with Devin out there. He seems to have a better response to what we're running, [but] Derrick's got the body to deal with some of these bigger guys."
During his pregame media session before Tuesday's game, Jackson was asked pointedly if the Lakers need to pursue another center.
"We probably should," Jackson said. "We don't have a whole lot of experience [at that position]. Derrick Caracter is learning on the move and that's about it, so we have to have some support there in the interim until Andrew [Bynum] comes back."
Jackson added that Ron Artest and Luke Walton, who traditionally play as small forward, could also be called on to fill in at power forward.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.