The Lakers are 3.5 games out of a playoff spot with 17 games to play, which in and of itself is not an easy mountain to climb. But, really, itâ€™s worse than that â€” Memphis has a tough schedule to close out the season and itâ€™s very possible surging Denver will pass Memphis. Looked at that way, the Lakers are 6 games back with 17 to play, which borders on the impossible.
At some point, with the Lakers out of contention, Sasha Vujacic needs to get court time. The Lakers need to give him experience and allow more evaluation before the draft and free agency. The same could be said of Tony Bobbitt, if the Lakers have any intention of keeping him (my guess is they donâ€™t). Slava Medvedenko and Luke Walton could be part of that equation too â€” can they fit into a system where Shaq does not anchor down the middle?
Another person who needs to play, but for completely different reasons, is Devean George. Next season Devean will be in the last year of his contract, making $4.95 million, making him a very tradable player this summer. However, no team is going to offer much for a guy who didnâ€™t play a minute during the season â€” if the Lakers want to trade him heâ€™s got to prove heâ€™s healthy. The same is true of Vlade Divac, although he could be bought out for $2 million.
Where do you draw the line? When are the Lakers officially done and you give up and start playing the bench to see what youâ€™ve got? My guess is weâ€™ll know by this weekend â€” if the Lakers donâ€™t beat a slumping Utah team and then beat Denver on Thursday, itâ€™s officially garbage time. Even with those wins they may not catch up, but that would keep hope alive.