The playoffs are in the refrigerator. The eggs are cooling, the butterâ€™s getting hard, the Jell-O is jigglinâ€™. And the Lakers are on the outside looking in. Hamblen can yell from the mountaintops about the lack of effort all he wants (and heâ€™s right, I just wished heâ€™d yelled it at the players a lot earlier), it doesnâ€™t change the fact weâ€™re staying home in May.
Itâ€™s been a long time â€” 11 years â€” since any of us had to think about playing out the string in meaningless games. While the games are meaningless they are not useless. Here are a few things Iâ€™d like to see in the final 14.
More Devean George. It was good to see him back on the court last night. He had some good moments â€” hitting a three within a minute of entering the game, drawing a charge on Carmelo â€” and some bad ones. He looked rusty, but thatâ€™s too be expected. The bottom line here is George is one of the Lakers most tradable commodities (just one year left on his deal) but he needs to prove he is healthy before other teams will even look at him.
More Vlade Divac. This is for basically the same reason as George. While Vlade is less tradable and is more likely going to be bought out for $2 million, it is possible he could be part of a trade if he can prove he is healthy. (I should say that if Phil Jackson does come back look for Vlade to stay, heâ€™d be a great center for the triangle.)
More Sasha Vujacic. Is he the point guard of the future? Is he the sixth man of the future? To be either of those things heâ€™s going to need to bulk up (at least a little) and get some experience. There is no better time to get it than now â€” real NBA games, not just summer league, where there is no downside for the Lakers as he makes mistakes and learns on the job.
Less Kobe Bryant. Heâ€™s tired and his second-half numbers in recent games show it. No reason for him to play 40+ a night now, let Luke and Sasha take up some of that court time.
The Kobe and Caron backcourt. I canâ€™t find an exact number, but I can say this â€” Kobe and Caron have played the two guard positions together this season for less than 20 minutes. Yes the two of them would have trouble guarding a team with a small, quick point guard, but there are plenty of teams where they wouldnâ€™t get exposed defensively and the Lakers would be the ones creating match up problems. Of course, to do this right you would need Lamar at the three, Grant at the four and Mihm at the five â€” with Lamar out and Mihm in pain, I guess we wonâ€™t see this lineup the rest of the way.
Somebody play defense. Really want to impress the fans and the coaching staff? Stop somebody. Shut down a point guard or block shot of someone driving to the hole. Keep a team under 100 points.
All right, I know that last one is a pipe dream.
(As an aside, while the Lakers are out of it we are still going to talk playoffs here. Mixed in with the coach/draft talk for the Lakers will be NBA playoff posts and discussions as well. While I’m a Laker fan, I’m also a hoops fan and the playoffs are going to be entertaining.)