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The Lakers, with Kobe Bryant’s disastrous extension wiped away that summer, could sniff three max cap slots. The Lakers’ cap flexibility yielded nothing of note last summer, but a Lakers team with the ability to offer a package deal to multiple stars is the ultimate NBA bogeyman.

(via Zach Lowe: How the NBA’s New TV Deal Could Blow Up the Salary Cap)

In the coming summers, this upcoming one included, the Lakers should have immense spending power. They purposely built their roster to “maintain flexibility” and be able to be a major competitor on the open market for the league’s best free agents.

This upcoming summer, for example, should the team not exercise their team option on Jordan Hill and get two first round picks (their own — which is still in question — and the Rockets, which is not) the Lakers would have between $20-23 million in cap space come July 1st. This number would include cap holds for Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, Robert Sacre, and Jabari Brown. Jump to the Summer of 2016 when, as Zach Lowe notes above, Kobe’s contract comes off the books, and the Lakers could be in a position to spend boatloads of money on free agents to rebuild their roster with an influx of amazing talent.

When viewing the team’s trajectory through this prism, visions of what the Miami Heat did in the Summer of 2010 becomes a model many fans hope to follow. Keep the cap clean — maybe even losing a lot next season to get another high pick — and then spend like crazy in the summer of ’16 when there will be a batch of free agents worth spending the cash on. There’s a seductive logic to this that is easy to be roped into. I get it.

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There is no better indicator of a season gone awry for the Lakers than what was experienced over this past weekend. On Saturday the playoffs started and rather than participating, the Lakers found themselves at home for the 2nd straight year. This, the fallout from a season that saw them lose their most games and post their worst winning percentage in the history of the franchise.

Getting to the post-season used to be the natural result of whatever type of year the Lakers had. If it was one of their better ones, they were angling for a top seed in the conference and home court throughout the playoffs. If it was simply an average one, they were still in the hunt for home court in the first round or two.

Today is a far cry from that, but I’m not here to eulogize the team. We know they were bad. If you read excerpts from the team’s exit interviews, they know they were bad. No sense in really chronicling it too much more (though, of course, we will eventually).

Speaking of the exit interviews, that’s where we’ll begin our fast break thoughts while also getting into the playoffs, free agency, and the draft:

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Sacramento Kings vs Los Angeles Lakers

Wed Apr 15, 10:30 PM EST – TWSN, CSNS

Line: LAL -2.5, O/U: 205.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 105.2 ORTG (17)
  • 109.4 DRTG (27)
  • 95.3 Pace (8)
  • 75.3 DRB% (12)
  • 0.541 TS% (10)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • DeMarcus Cousins 24.1 ppg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 12.7 rpg
  • Darren Collison 5.6 apg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 1.7 bpg
  • Darren Collison 1.5 spg

Ranks

  • 103.5 ORTG (24)
  • 110.5 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (14)
  • 76.2 DRB% (6)
  • 0.513 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Vander Blue 2 spg

The end is here. Enjoy it the best way you can.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Sacramento Kings

Mon Apr 13, 10:00 PM EST – TWSN, CSNS

Line: SAC -3.5, O/U: 207.5

Sleep Train Arena – Sacramento, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.6 ORTG (24)
  • 110.5 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76.1 DRB% (8)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 105.1 ORTG (17)
  • 109.5 DRTG (27)
  • 95.3 Pace (8)
  • 75.4 DRB% (11)
  • 0.54 TS% (10)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • DeMarcus Cousins 24.1 ppg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 12.7 rpg
  • Darren Collison 5.6 apg
  • DeMarcus Cousins 1.7 bpg
  • Darren Collison 1.5 spg

Two games. Eight quarters. 96 minutes. That’s all that remains of the Lakers’ season.

It’s funny because it seems I have been waiting for the end of this season for so long, but now that it really is almost here it feels strange and I’m not quite sure how to react. While I have not “enjoyed” watching the games — no one really likes watching their favorite team lose — I do still tune into to every game (or at least 90% of them) to watch this team. I still want to evaluate what they do well, what they don’t, who’s playing well, who’s not, and scope the little nuances that make the game the game.

I am a basketball junky. I like seeing how Clarkson attack’s on a certain angle or strings his dribble out. I enjoy commenting that Kelly needs to use his height more on defense rather than reaching in all the time. I like seeing Jabari Brown’s composed competitiveness. I even like seeing Carlos Boozer celebrate his teammate’s good plays on the bench like the true professional he’s been all season. These things don’t come with wins, but they come with watching the team I root for. On Wednesday, the season will end and this will be no more. Sure, I’ll still watch the playoffs and enjoy seeing the game elevated in the 2nd season. But, in a way, I’ll miss the Lakers even if I won’t quite miss these Lakers if that makes sense.

When watching tonight, I’m sure it certainly will make sense. In Sunday’s loss to the Mavs, the Lakers lost Wes Johnson to a sprained ankle and Dwight Buycks to a fractured hand. Tonight, then, they’ll be down to an even more skeleton roster that has them without a natural SF and without a true backup PG. They did add Vander “Forum” Blue for the rest of the season from the D-Fenders, but he’s more of a scoring guard who can also create shots for others than a bigger wing or a pure distributor. Still, though, the Lakers can use the depth on the perimeter since they were down to only Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown to man the two guard slots.

I’m sure the Kings will not feel sorry for the Lakers, though. They are down DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Darren Collison and are also running patchwork lineups due to their reduced depth. Since George Karl took over the Kings aren’t much better than they were under Ty Corbin, but they are playing at a much faster pace and Karl is getting more from some of the role players (rookie Nick Stauskus is a prime example). Their defense is not where it was under dispatched Mike Malone, but that’s to be expected. Overall, though, it seems Karl will need a full off-season and training camp to implement what he wants on both ends and go from there.

In any event, this game will test your viewing endurance though, if history tells us anything it’s that these franchises tend to compete hard when matched up. Maybe that extra effort can make up for some of the injured players and offer an intensity that covers up some of the flaws of the individual players. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Dallas Mavericks vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Apr 12, 9:30 PM EST – NBAt, FSSW

Line: DAL -5.5, O/U: 204.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 109.5 ORTG (5)
  • 106.5 DRTG (19)
  • 95 Pace (9)
  • 71.9 DRB% (29)
  • 0.549 TS% (7)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Monta Ellis 19.2 ppg
  • Tyson Chandler 11.5 rpg
  • Rajon Rondo 6.5 apg
  • Brandan Wright 1.6 bpg
  • Monta Ellis 1.9 spg

Ranks

  • 103.5 ORTG (24)
  • 110.4 DRTG (29)
  • 93.9 Pace (13)
  • 76 DRB% (8)
  • 0.514 TS% (26)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

There’s only three games left. Two of those will be a home and home against the Kings — a team that is, like the Lakers, playing out the stretch — and the other is tonight’s match up against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs are playoff bound, locked into the 7th seed and waiting to see who will emerge from the tie-break hell that is the chase for the West’s 2nd seed. We know that it will either be the Grizzlies, Spurs, Rockets, or Clippers. For the Lakers’ sake, the hope is that it’s not the Rockets (hello draft pick from the Jeremy Lin trade), but beyond that, I do not think anyone associated with the Lakers cares.

If you’re looking for another Lakers-centric theme to this game, look no further then their starting point guard. Rajon Rondo is an unrestricted free agent this summer and, as there have been all season, the rumors are there that he will be a target for the Lakers. I have not written much on this, but I would not be a fan of that move. I’ll have more to say at a later date, but I’m not convinced Rondo is going to be worth his salary demands — especially in a league that has moved almost entirely towards prioritizing shooting from all positions, but point guard especially.

That isn’t to say that Rondo is without appeal. In a recent profile from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, Rondo’s combination of quirkiness, extreme intelligence, and competitiveness was detailed:

At shootarounds and practices in Boston, Rivers says, Rondo would become “very irritated” when they had to go over plays again and again, even for veterans. For Rondo, learning plays came as naturally as math. Teammates and coaches would universally claim that Rondo has some sort of photographic memory — he doesn’t deny it — and former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, now head coach of the Bulls, says that by the time they’d watch game film the morning after, Rondo had already reviewed the footage two or three times. (“He doesn’t sleep,” Doo says.) The Celtics considered him a pseudo-advance scout, listening and looking for cues from the opponent, then calling out exactly what they were about to do.

Before Rondo’s first playoff series against Atlanta in 2008, the Celtics distributed a 100-page book full of the Hawks’ plays and statistics. Rondo took it home, then challenged assistant Darren Erman the next morning: “Quiz me on anything.” Rondo nailed every question, until Erman tossed a curveball — a question about something that wasn’t in the book. “Fuck you,” Rondo said. “That’s not in there.” Once, when Erman was with the Warriors, his team ran a side out-of-bounds play, called C, that he says they’d run maybe 15 times all season. They called the play. Rondo immediately shouted, “C! Rip screen, rip screen!” Erman and then-Warriors assistant Brian Scalabrine looked at each other, stunned: How in the hell did he know that?

A second coach on the court. An advance scout in the locker room. What could possibly go wrong? “You’ve got to have your shit together,” Garnett says. “Rondo would be like, ‘Nah, Thibs, that ain’t what this is called. It’s called this.’ Thibs would look down at his little sheet and be like, ‘Oh yeah, it is.’ ” In time, Rivers even allowed Rondo to call games like a catcher in baseball, providing a list of five or six plays Rivers wanted him to run that day. “I’ve never had to do that before,” Rivers says, “but it was awesome.” Rondo would study the sheet before games and during timeouts, placing it on the floor between his feet. Even then, Rivers says, after he was given all that freedom … he’d still deviate.

“He’s a contrarian. I figured that out early. He’d ask, ‘Well why wouldn’t we do it this way?’ Sometimes I’d answer, ‘Well, which way do you want to do it?’ He’d say, ‘No, I like the way we’re doing it, I’m just asking.’ That’s a Rondo.”
— Doc Rivers

Yes, the holes in his game are real, but what is described above are things that coaches will value. I know for a fact that Byron Scott will value them. It’s been well documented that Kobe Bryant already does. Whether that leads Rondo to Los Angeles this summer remains to be seen. But, it is something that, regardless of how much one would disagree with it, remains a possibility.

Of course, one of the reasons many who cheer for the Lakers would be against it is the presence of Jordan Clarkson. March’s NBA Rookie of the Month winner is a strong candidate to make 1st Team All-Rookie and looks as though he has the physical tools, smarts, and work ethic to continue to improve. Considering his cheap contract (for at least one more season) and the need for him to have minutes in games to continue to grow, the better long play would be to spend money on other positions and let Clarkson develop further.

Tonight, then, gives fans a chance to see these two go head to head. That match up along should be enough to tune into this game. In fact, it will have to be considering there’s really not much intrigue to this game beyond that. Sure, seeing if Ryan Kelly can keep up some of the momentum from his last game is something I’m interested in. I also want to see how Tarik Black does against Tyson Chandler on both ends of the floor and whether Jabari Brown can somewhat keep up with Monta Ellis. But, ultimately, Clarkson versus Rondo is what I’m looking forward to most. Hopefully it delivers.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and NBA TV. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.