Maybe I should just cut and paste my preview from this past Sunday’s game against the Magic game here, huh?

After all, the Lakers head into Milwaukee to face the team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Considering the 76ers have lost 25 games in a row, the fact that the Bucks are still below them in the standings is quite the accomplishment. But there the Bucks are, the winners of 13 games this year (woof) and playing on the heels of the announcement that Ersan Ilyasova will miss the remainder of the season. The poor get poorer, it seems.

Don’t look for the Lakers to throw a pity party for the Bucks, however. They have too many of their own injury issues to deal with for any such sympathy. Even though Steve Nash traveled with the team, he has ruled himself out for this game and the next one, looking instead to next week for a possible return. That mirrors Pau’s timeline for a possible return with the big Spaniard still dealing with symptoms of vertigo. And then, of course, there’s this news:

The hope is that Kaman arrives in Milwaukee in time for the game, but as Dave McMenamin noted, odds are that Hill starts in Kaman’s spot — a development that intrigues me.

I am quite interested in seeing how Hill can play in what is essentially a small-ball lineup where he operates as the lone big man. I have long said that for D’Antoni’s purposes, Hill is essentially a Center and now he gets to play in that exact role. Do not be surprised to see Hill get plenty of chances at the front of the rim as a roll man in the P&R and for him to benefit from the extra spacing he’s bound to have playing with the starting group without Pau or Kaman flanking him up front.

Beyond Hill’s freedom (and likely minutes boost), though, there is little for me to be genuinely excited about when it comes to this game. While the Bucks being bad is part of it, the fact is there really isn’t much to learn about the Lakers at this point in the season either. If I were making a list, the things that truly deserve an extended look are whether Bazemore can continue to flash some playmaking skills as a ball handling wing and…actually that’s about it. As much as the other young players deserve a look from a keen scouting eye, the real question about most of them is what they do in the off-season to develop further, not what they do on the floor over these last 10+ games. For most of these guys we understand their strengths and weaknesses; we understand what holes exist in their games and what they can do to try and close them up. The question is whether they go about doing those things.

Those answers will come over a long summer and into next season, not in the next month. That takes an edge off these games that, at least for me, was present just a month ago. But in learning more about these guys — especially since they have actually had an opportunity to play — the urgency to see more isn’t there anymore. That doesn’t make these games meaningless (the lottery still matters, right?), but from an evaluation standpoint there isn’t too much more to learn.

With that being the case, my advice is to simply enjoy what is left of this season the best you know how (whether that’s rooting for wins or losses). Because very soon, there will not be any Lakers’ basketball to watch.

Where you can watch: 5pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Newly appointed Knicks president Phil Jackson was on hand to witness the type of performance he hopes to eradicate in the coming years. After a hot start in which they scored the contest’s first eight points, the listless Knicks allowed the shorthanded Lakers, playing without Kobe, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, to go a combined 34 of 46 in the second and third quarters. When all was said and done, LAL had put together one of its better performances on the year in handing the Knicks a 127-106 defeat. LA managed to score fifty-one points in the third quarter, a franchise record.

This was one of the few games I’ve been lucky enough to attend this year, and the atmosphere inside Staples was surprisingly lively when you consider what’s transpired this season. The Lakers seemed to feed off the energy and the knowledge that the game was nationally televised. When you watch a game in person, the little things that you notice when you watch games not on television- stuff like effort, communication on defense, and hustle- becomes much clearer. And yesterday, it was shockingly apparent that the Lakers wanted to win more than the Knicks did. It’s as simple as that. New York was slow on defensive rotations, slow in their closeouts on three-point shooters, just plain old slow.

The Lakers on the other hand, were not. It was the same formula that helped LAL start off hot decently: up-tempo, push the pace type offense relying heavily on ball movement and three-pointers and defense designed to keep the opponent out of the paint. It was refreshing to see the Lakers play some effective defense for once- they were able to make things tough on Carmelo Anthony, who missed his first seven shots (mostly jumpers). While Anthony did eventually begin to hit those jumpers, the game was well out of hand before he got cooking. What I’m trying to say here is, Anthony was mostly a non-factor despite his 29 points.

Iman Shumpert was completely invisible, as has been the unfortunate truth for Knicks fans recently. He’s really not developed nearly the way anyone in the league or the Knicks’ front office anticipated, and it feels like ages ago that he was regarded as a future building block who could effectively guard LeBron in playoff series’ for New York. If I’d have told you two years ago that Iman Shumpert would be averaging 6.7 points and have a PER under 10 this year, you would have been disappointed in the way he’s developed.

In contrast, the Lakers were excellent last night. Xavier Henry was impressive in his return, going 8-11 for 22 points off the bench in only 23 minutes of action in his first game since returning from a wrist injury. His legs looked springy-fresh and he seemed genuinely excited to be back on the court. That’s something that I think people–me included– have kind of forgotten this year: yes, it’s been a terrible season and the Lakers aren’t anything near a good team, but the players are still living their dream, still playing in the NBA every night for one of, if not the, league’s most famous franchise. For those who don’t have the title-or-bust mentality (so for everyone except Kobe, really), that’s still pretty damn cool.

Swaggy P was excellent for the second straight game, putting up 20 and adding to the historical tone of the evening by notching his sixth 4-point play of the year- a Laker record. He was the first one in Carmelo’s ear all night, as you’d expect and want, as well. Jodie Meeks, who might warrant a few votes in the Most Improved Player voting, hit four of the Lakers’ 18 3-pointers, just one shy of the record set previously this year. It was the type of three-point barrage that Mike D’Antoni’s teams muster when they’re playing well against a team that didn’t come to play. And that was exactly the case- the Knicks really never seemed to interested in putting together a run to get back in the game and didn’t seem all too upset when it was clear they’d lose.

In a season filled with disappointments and too many embarrassing score lines, it was nice to the squad hand down a beating of their own. No matter the circumstances, beating the Knicks is always nice- especially in front of Phil Jackson.

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.