The Lakers are back in action after a weekend off, their last game being Friday where they had a great 2nd half (at least offensively) and were able to pull out a win behind the hot shooting of Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, and MarShon Brooks. That perimeter trio combined with a very good game from Pau Gasol to take down a Kings team who was missing DeMarcus Cousins.
I throw in that last point because it’s best to remember who this Lakers’ team is and what level they are actually playing at right now. The Kings are one of the lesser teams in the league (they have some very good individual performers whose production is not leading to wins) and were missing their best player, yet the Lakers needed an outstanding shooting effort from multiple players — and, historically, one of the better three point shooting nights ever — to beat them. This isn’t an attempt to drag this team down or to dampen the spirits of anyone rooting them on (I enjoyed that game a great deal and loved seeing the guys go nova from behind the arc). But it is important to remind ourselves that this team remains one of the lesser outfits in the entire league even though I know no one has really forgotten *sad face emoticon here*.
In any event, if you want to make yourself feel better the Lakers head up to Portland tonight to play in the friendly confines of the arena formerly called the Rose Garden. Oh, that doesn’t make you feel better? What? The Lakers usually get handed their hats to them in that arena? The Blazers are also one of the best teams in the league and got back LaMarcus Aldridge a game ago after he’d missed 5 straight? Oh. Well then…
No, the Lakers aren’t walking into a very good situation tonight. Though well rested and finally getting Xavier Henry back from injury (Henry played two games with the D-Fenders in a rehab stint), the Blazers represent a challenge that will be difficult for the Lakers to meet under the best of circumstances. And, despite some solid play from the newcomers and Gasol looking like his pre-groin strain self lately, these circumstances are not good.
In reality, though, the situation the Lakers are in isn’t about wins and losses at this point (well, maybe it is about losses) but more about trying to get a better handle on who these players are through as thorough an evaluation process as allowed in the remaining games. After tonight’s game, the Lakers will only have 22 games left in this season. Of the players who are actually able to suit up, the Lakers have a team option on Kendall Marshall, can make a qualifying offer to Kent Bazemore, and have Robert Sacre signed for one more season. Everyone else’s contract expires this summer and the Lakers need to continue to try and get as much good information as possible and determine who they should try and retain for next season.
These are the things that matter now. Roster construction for next year should be a major priority and one of the best ways to get relevant information on how to go about that is to use these last 20+ games to get the best read possible on the players who are left to evaluate. That’s not sexy nor is it something that will lead to many, if any, wins. There will surely be some fun moments mixed in as we get to see these guys’ talents shine through. But if you’re looking for X’s and O’s detail and refined strategy that is meant to help the team secure the extra W, you’re likely watching the wrong team now.
That’s the harsh reality of what this year has become. It’s not about rooting for losses — I still cannot bring myself to do that — but it is about rooting for information over anything else. That’s not something I, or any Lakers’ fans really, are used to doing at this point in the year.
Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.