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On Tuesday night the Lakers roasted the Knicks, putting on a scoring display that was pretty incredible to watch. After only scoring 14 points in the 1st quarter, the Lakers proceeded to hang 44 on the Knicks in the 2nd quarter to pull ahead at the half.

The real fireworks occurred in the 3rd period, however, when the Lakers scored 51 points to set a franchise record for points scored in a quarter (which was also a record for the Knicks for most points allowed). By my count the Lakers boasted an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 204.0 for the period, though other calculations had it at 197 192 and some change. Either way, the Lakers essentially scored 2 points per every possession that quarter, running the Knicks out of the building in the process.

As I said on twitter at the time, the game got embarrassing and this time the Lakers weren’t the victims. No, this time it was the other team who couldn’t bother to make rotations on time, lost their man off the ball, and looked generally hapless defensively. The funny thing about the that fateful 3rd period is that the Knicks were actually quite good themselves offensively. They managed to shoot over 50% from the floor and put up 31 points of their own. If only they didn’t allow the Lakers to score 20 more points than them in that 12 minutes.

Anyways, enjoy the video above. In a season that has offered way too many lows, the Lakers bombing away on the Knicks was certainly one of the high points all season and is worth celebrating for at least another day.

First things first, neither Pau (vertigo) nor Steve Nash (hamstring/nerve root issue) are expected to play against the Knicks on Tuesday night. And while Xavier Henry will give it a go, he will surely be in pain after his MRI revealed a torn ligament in his wrist. In other words, same (expletive) different day for a Lakers’ team who has not been healthy all year.

They face a Knicks team who is healthy, but is trying to overcome what has been a terribly disappointing (and underachieving) season to date by making a final push to get into the post-season. They currently sit 2.5 games back of the Hawks for the 8th seed and would very much like to make it to the second season where they can test a suddenly shaky Pacers’ group or see if the Heat really are cut out to make another run to the Finals.

Who are we kidding, though? Tonight’s game won’t be about the Knicks’ playoff chase or the Lakers playing shorthanded while keeping an eye on their lottery odds. No, tonight’s game is about Phil Jackson! The Zen Master, in all his glory, is now a New York Knicks’ employee and will probably be in the building (or at least he was already) tonight. And considering this is a nationally televised game, if Phil actually does find his way into the building there will only be, oh, a hundred or so camera shots of him with plenty of back and forth from the announcers and chants from the crowd and…you get the point. There will be a game going on, but at the same time there won’t be.

In a way, that’s all okay. After all, the Lakers aren’t playing for much besides personal pride and draft positioning. And while the Knicks are trying to push for the playoffs, the odds of them pulling an upset are small and the odds we see this version of the Knicks again next year with Phil in charge are even smaller. So, take this game for what it is — a late season distraction from real life for two and a half hours with snarky comments about Jim Buss mixed in. Or, in the eyes of many Lakers’ fans, Tuesday.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TNT. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Throughout his career Kobe Bryant has rarely been one to hold his tongue when it comes to speaking what he sees as the truth, but over the past few seasons, that’s been even more true. Put a microphone in front of Kobe and he’s going to give you his unfiltered opinion on whatever topic he is asked about.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when Kobe announced he would not return this season he was very open about his thoughts on this season and what his expectations for the Lakers are moving forward. While the entire sit down is worth your time, the part that was most compelling, at least to me, was when he spoke about next year’s team and whether he could wait another year after this off-season to improve the roster:

No, nope, not one lick. Let’s just play next year and suck again. No, absolutely not, absolutely not. It’s my job to go out there on the court and perform. No excuses for it. You have to get things done. Same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court, the same expectations I have for them up there. You have to be able to figure out a way to do both.

On top of those comments, were these given within the last couple of days:

The one sure-fire way to be a contending team is to have an abundance of talent (newsflash, right?). And in today’s NBA, the way you accumulate high end talent is by drafting it (the Thunder), signing it in free agency (the Heat), or trading for it (the 2008 – 10 Lakers). And once you have that talent in house, you have to be able to pay for it. It’s a pretty simple formula.

The problem for the Lakers is that none of those things are really possible next season. And a lot of it has to do with the CBA.

Let’s start with the draft since that is the one thing that the CBA really does not affect. The Lakers are primed to have a very good pick in the upcoming draft. That player should aid in bolstering the team’s core talent and, hopefully, be a building block player for years to come. But that player is only one guy. The Thunder didn’t get good with just Durant. They got good when Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka were added to Durant (not to mention the time that was given to let them develop). The only drafted players the Lakers will have on their roster next season will be whoever they pick this June, Robert Sacre, and Ryan Kelly. While I like Kelly and Sacre, let’s not confuse them with elite prospects.

But when it comes to trades and free agency, the Lakers are really stuck in dealing with the rules that govern the league.

While the Lakers have cap space to offer free agents or to use as a mechanism to absorb money in a trade for a high salaried player, the rules say the team cannot go over the salary cap unless they are using that money to sign their own players. That last point is a crucial one, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

So while you (or Kobe) can say “we just need to sign (or trade for) player X, Y, Z” it’s really not that simple. The Lakers can spend all their cap space on a marquee free agent (or two if those guys decide they want to take a bit less), but even in the most ideal world the roster would still be one built around Kobe and that marquee free agent (or two). The same is true for a trade — the Lakers can try to work a deal for a quality veteran (say, Kevin Love) and offer to sign and trade one of their own free agents (say, Pau Gasol), but even if that were to happen the Lakers would have Kobe, Love, and….not much else. Yes the could fill out their roster with role players,  but the types of players they’d be signing are the exact type of guys they signed last off-season (guys like Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wes Johnson, and Chris Kaman; guys who took less money to play in L.A. for the Lakers or guys who no one else wanted and are looking to redeem their careers with no other option but to take the minimum).

Let’s go the other way, then. Let’s say the Lakers should maximize their spending by inking their own players via their Bird Rights and building up the roster that way. Only, if you do that, you’re essentially committing big dollars to the likes of Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Nick Young, and Farmar. In other words, you’re going over the cap to keep the same team you had this year. This, as far as I know, isn’t what Kobe means when he says he wants a quick turnaround. In fact, I’d imagine it’s the opposite.

This is the part of the story where I tell you this is actually, at least partially, Kobe’s fault. After all, he took a huge salary in the coming seasons and that salary is what is eating away at the team’s cap space and limiting their ability to sign multiple high level players. And there is some truth in that. If Kobe and the front office had been able to agree on a contract that paid him less, those savings could have been transferred into the pockets of other players the Lakers would want to acquire.

That said, what’s also true is that the Lakers are simply in a position where the rules are somewhat against them. By having so many contracts expiring at the same time, the Lakers will fall beneath the salary cap. This, then, puts a limit on what they can actually spend on players this summer. (If you even wondered by Pau Gasol makes more money than LeBron James, this is why — LeBron took less than the maximum salary (just like Wade and Bosh did) so that their contracts could fit into the Heat’s cap space.) Further, because all those contracts expire at the same time and the assets they do have under contract aren’t that valuable around the league, they cannot easily flip those pieces into the better players that would accelerate the rebuild in the manner that Kobe describes in his quotes above.

This is the reality the Lakers face. And, ultimately, Kobe must face it too. There is only so much you can do when all your talented players diminish in quality at the same time while simultaneously lacking alternative assets to improve your roster via the other avenues the CBA allows. So, while Kobe can talk about turning things around quickly the fact is the Lakers aren’t in any position to actually make that happen. Unless you see LeBron, Bosh, and Carmelo all deciding they want to make $7 million a year to come play for the Lakers. Yeah, me neither.

There is really no way to spruce up a game like the one that will occur tonight. When the Orlando Magic come into Staples Center tonight to face the Lakers, two of the worst teams in the league will be facing off.

The Lakers now boast the 4th worst record in the entire league. Read that sentence again. If they hope to avoid the worst season in franchise history they need to win nine of their last 14 games. Considering they are 3-7 in their last 10 games, I am not optimistic this will occur. And while the team continues to play hard, they do not play smart or together defensively. I don’t want to undersell the former point, but if you are looking for why this team continues to lose it are those latter points that mean more. As the great John Wooden said, do not mistake activity for achievement.

The Magic, meanwhile, boast the league’s third worst record and are one of only three teams to not yet even win 20 games this year. They are a roster of mostly young players and are still trying to recover from the departure of Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy two seasons ago. They have some nice pieces, but do not know how to channel that talent, often experimenting with lineups and trying sort out what positions maximize their players’ production.

In a way, Orlando represents an interesting look at what the Lakers hope to try to emulate while not replicating the results. With prospects like Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Mo Harkless the Magic possess a core of young players who, if they reach their respective ceilings, can be a nice core of contributors for a competitive team. That said, it takes time for young players to maximize their potential and without high performing veterans to serve as mentors and provide a baseline of production for a successful record the team as a whole flounders. In the coming seasons, then, the Lakers will try to acquire young assets like the Magic possess but try pair that talent with the types of high quality veterans that can keep the team among the ranks of the competitive.

That’s down the line, however. Tonight, this game is probably most important because of how it affects lottery positioning. As mentioned, the Lakers have the 4th worst record, but a win would put them back into 7th place by percentage points. I don’t root for losses, but it is wise to understand how each game affects the outlook of the draft through the lottery process.

If you do root for losses, though, one thing that will be in your favor is that the Lakers will again be a bit short handed tonight. Xavier Henry had an MRI on the wrist he injured on Friday and it revealed a torn ligament. He has been ruled out of this game and will be reevaluated on Tuesday. And, after having a nice return to action against the Wizards, Steve Nash is a game time decision after tweaking his hamstring (which is a symptom of the nerve root irritation he’s dealing with). At this point, I think it is doubtful Nash gives it a go all things considered.

The flip-side of this, however, is that the Magic also have plenty of variables against them tonight. Jameer Nelson is doubtful to play. The Magic are also on the 2nd night of a back to back, playing last night in Utah (a game they lost). This game also marks the final contest in a 4 game west coast road trip, which should only contribute further to whatever dragging feeling the team may have already.

In summary, rather than thinking about why either team would win this game it is much easier to give reasons why they will lose. Thank goodness there are only 14 games left in this season.

This could be said on many nights this season, but tonight’s match up is quite the role reversal for a late March game between these two teams. The Wizards enter tonight two games over .500 and the 6th seed in the East. The Lakers enter tonight’s game 23 games under .500 (seriously, that’s not a misprint) and are dead last in the West. I don’t need the Elias Sports Bureau to tell me that this type of discrepancy between these two teams has rarely (if ever) happened this late in the season. But here we are.

The good news for the Lakers (at least if you like watching more talent) is that they get some reinforcements back tonight. Jordan Hill and Nick Young are slated to return to the lineup after dealing with their respective ailments. Steve Nash will also be available to play tonight, likely playing anywhere from 5-7 minutes a half according to Mike D’Antoni. Adding those three to the lineup, even if they are diminished (especially Nash), improves this team a fair amount. Hill’s work on the glass and general hustle, Young’s scoring punch and ability to absorb possessions while creating shots offensively, and Steve Nash’s all-around game on O greatly improve what this team wants to do schematically.

And call me a sap, but I’m happy that Nash will be able to give it a go tonight. I know there are no guarantees he even makes it through the game (even if only playing short stints), I’ve always liked watching him out there on the floor. If he’s able to make a few “Nash” plays when out there, I’ll be satisfied. I also hope the fans give him a nice ovation when he makes his first appearance. For all we know, this may be the last time we ever see him play.

This is normally the part where I’d talk some strategy or discuss the Lakers’ chances of winning this game. Not today, however. It’s not that there aren’t X’s and O’s that intrigue me this game. It’s quite the opposite, actually. The Wizards young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal are difference makers and offer ever improving games that should give the Lakers fits. And with Nene out and Marcin Gortat missing their last game, that duo will have to do even more of the heavy lifting than normal. We also can’t forget the return of Drew Gooden and his all court goodness! (On a serious note, Gooden has been making some plays lately and the Wiz recently signed him for the rest of the season after initially inking him to a 10 day contract.)

I am not going to get into many details, however, because I’m not sure it matters all that much at this point. I mean, I care how the team plays and there are several things that still intrigue me about what this group does when on the floor. But in reality, this part of the season is less about the schemes the team is using or what they can do to win, and more about what the guys are offering as individuals and whether those traits can be incorporated into a team, down the line, that wins games. There is individual growth to be made as well and getting extended looks at several players (especially Sacre, Bazemore, and Henry) can help continue the evaluation process. I want to see how those players operate within the scheme more than what the scheme is itself, if that makes sense.

At this point, though, these are the things that matter most to me. Whether this is true for you or not, let me know in the comments. My guess is that many still care about the wins and losses (especially related to the lottery), but as a guy who is also thinking roster construction and the need to fill some gaps with cheap talent, these last games will hopefully continue to inform those decisions as well.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.