Every day is a new story for the Los Angeles Lakers. They play well one night and the trade talk dwindles. They play poorly and panic ensues.
The history of one of the most successful organizations in NBA history certainly plays in to the polarizing shift of opinion from day to day. No one is confident in the Lakers right now, but no one wants to count them out.
The fact of the matter is this: Dwight Howard has been banged up, and he’s failed to live up to lofty expectations thus far. Pau Gasol is on the shelf for six to eight weeks (via The Los Angeles Times), and Los Angeles already lost Jordan Hill for the year to hip surgery.
The Lakers’ frontcourt is hurting, and Kobe Bryant cannot continue to shoulder the entire burden of carrying the team through its injuries and ineffectiveness. Los Angeles needs to make a move, be it through free agency or trade, if for no other reason than to add some depth until Gasol and Howard are healthy.
However, according to Nick Borges of ESPN (subscription required), the Lakers likely won’t be in the market for another big man this season. They have a luxury tax bill of $29.58 million at the moment and few trade assets apart from Howard. Making a trade to shore up the frontcourt likely isn’t an option.
The Lakers’ brass has to act with a sense of urgency, though. Spending has never been an issue in Los Angeles, and while the penalties against luxury tax repeat offenders are substantial, standing pat at this point in the season could spell disaster for the Lakers.
Los Angeles has a $1.78 million exception from the loss of Hill, and they could use it on a free agent addition or new player via trade. Using the exception won’t help with the luxury tax issues, but it would at least give Los Angeles the cap flexibility to add another big man in Gasol’s absence (h/t ESPN).
The line between urgency and panic has already been walked. The Lakers have now completed 52 games and are 16.5 out of first place in the West. What is more disconcerting is the fact that Los Angeles is still 3.5 games out of current playoff standings at 24-28.
The time for action is now, but like Borges, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld doesn’t see much happening via the trade market before the February 21 deadline:
Taking trades off the table altogether, the Lakers can still make a move to add some frontcourt depth to alleviate some of the pressure on Howard and Earl Clark. Los Angeles is worn thin in the paint and failing to act now could only exacerbate the situation.
Adding frontcourt depth won’t suddenly make the Lakers a playoff team, but every little bit can help in their attempt to climb out of the depths of a horrific season.
There is a finite amount of time before the playoffs arrive, and with 30 games left before the completion of the regular season, it’s time for the Lakers’ brass to show a sense of urgency.