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When I went about previewing the 2015-16 Lakers, I wrote mostly about the difficult balancing act the team was trying to accomplish with the roster which was constructed. Here is a sampling:

On a roster with a mix of young prospects who need development and capable veterans who play the same positions, how do they balance playing time? When trying to win as many games as possible, but also needing for young players to be able to play through mistakes to learn — sometimes at the expense of wins — how do they balance the different priorties? On a team with at least seven rotation players who do their best work with the ball in their hands, how do they balance touches?

As the season has transpired, however, a new variable has been thrown into the mix: Kobe Bryant announced he would retire. While it was pretty much assumed this would be Kobe’s last year, him putting it on the record in the manner he did shifted the discussion and caused a recalibration of what this year would be about.

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So, for the last three days I’ve been out of commission with a stomach bug. I’ve literally been bedridden. I haven’t eaten a thing and my brain is barely functioning enough to type complete sentences. I am on the mend, though, so here I am, doing the work of the people by previewing the next Lakers’ game.

Wait. The Lakers play the Warriors? Maybe I should have stayed sick another day.

The basketball gods have a way of putting things back into perspective. After winning three games in a row — the first time the Lakers have done that in nearly a full calendar year — the schedule makers send the best team in the league to Staples Center. Nothing humbles you like a trip from the Warriors.

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First of all, happy new year to all of you. I’ve said this before, but those of you who come to this site for Lakers’ information and analysis, contribute in the comments, and generally support our efforts are what make me running this site rewarding. For your support — be it continued or new — I thank you all.

As for today’s game, the Lakers are back in Los Angeles after a three game road trip which saw them go 1-2. Losses to the Grizzlies and Hornets were almost all but forgotten, however, after that win against the Celtics in the trip’s final game. That win has the potential to spark a little run of wins, too, as the Lakers enter a (somewhat) friendly part of their schedule. After playing the 76ers today, they play the free-falling Suns (who just lost Eric Bledsoe for the season), and have 6 of their next 7 games at home.

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As I wrote in my game preview, games against the Celtics just mean more. We know the Lakers aren’t a good team and that the Celtics are battling for a playoff spot in the newly rejuvenated East, but that just makes the prospect of getting a W that much more enticing. So, to see the Lakers play one of their better games of the year and pull out the victory was sweet.

To see them do it in Kobe’s last visit to Boston was even sweeter.

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Any time the Lakers play the Celtics, it is a big deal. The teams can be awful — and in the last 20 years, there have been plenty of match ups where one or both were not of good quality — and the game will still matter to fans and, more importantly, the players.

This, from head trainer Gary Vitti sums up the sentiment well:

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Twelve games ago Byron Scott decided he wanted to shake up his starting lineup. The move was a controversial one as he demoted Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell — the two players most considered cornerstones of the team’s rebuild and future — from the ranks of the starters to reserves. The young players have said all the right things, but when pressed have expressed a desire to start (at least Russell has – Randle has taken the “control what you can control” approach with the media).

With the change now 12 games deep and exactly three weeks old, now is as good a time as any to take stock and look at some of the numbers and trends which have emerged since the switch. Please note that while Randle has been a reserve for all 12 games, he has missed a contest with a sore ankle and that Russell did start two of the 12 contests while Jordan Clarkson sat out with his own ankle issue.

With that, let’s dig into some numbers:

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My apologies, but this game preview won’t be a game preview at all. Logistically, the Lakers face the Hornets on Monday, the second night of a back to back after playing in Memphis on Sunday night. But the game ahead, really, is just the scheduled event. It makes little sense to me to write about that game when this team has little chance to win that game.

In reality, this team has little chance of winning any game they play. That sounds harsh, I know. But, in reality, this is where we are with the Lakers.

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With two wins in their last six games, it’s fair to say the Lakers are somewhat improved of late. Much of that can be tied to the resurgent play of Kobe Bryant who has regained his status as the team’s best player. He’s not what he once was, of course, but what he is — at least lately — is a player boasting a PER north of 20 while anchoring the team’s offense with a combination of scoring ability and deft playmaking.

That level of player isn’t enough to carry a good team, but it’s good enough to keep the Lakers in more contests for longer stretches than early in the season. There are still long stretches of bad play — the OKC games and the first three quarters of the loss to the Clippers on Christmas are prime examples — but those stretches are being broken up by some classic Kobe and some good play from the assortment of kids and veterans who flank him.

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