The trading deadline slipped by Thursday and the Lakers didn't do a thing.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Their roster at the 3 p.m. deadline was the same one that shared the best record in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers. It's the roster that averaged more rebounds a game than any other team.
It has its flaws, but then so does the league. It's not a matter of beauty or even the eye of the beholder. It's about who will be holding the trophy at the end of the season.
The Lakers have a chance. Perhaps it's not as good a chance as Phil Jackson would have liked, but it's not as if any of the players whose names floated around the rumor waves would have guaranteed the Lakers a championship.
Meanwhile, nothing happened for the Clippers, which is basically the story of their season. A three-way deal was in place that would have sent Maurice Taylor to the New York Knicks, Vancouver forward Othella Harrington and New York's first-round draft pick to the Clippers, and New York forward John Wallace and two second-round picks to the Grizzlies.
It fell through at the last minute, leaving plenty of finger-pointing. Taylor's agent, David Falk, says blame the Clippers. The Clippers say if anything went wrong it's because the Grizzlies wanted more from the Knicks and the Knicks didn't comply, so blame them.
The bottom line is the Clippers were left with yet another L. They're that rare cat that can't land on its feet. Here they had a chance to come out of the Taylor situation with a a decent player that had a decent contract to boot (Harrington has five years, $13.5 million remaining). Now they're back where they started, with Taylor vowing to leave when his contract expires at the end of the season and leave the Clippers with nothing in return, and Derek Anderson all but saying he'll follow Taylor out the door.
If it's business as usual for the Clippers, these must be frustrating times for the Lakers.
The days when Jerry West could bring in Bob McAdoo or Mychal Thompson during the middle of the season without breaking up the core of the team are long gone. The current salary-cap rules and the impending luxury tax make it either impossible or unwise to make deals that otherwise might make sense.
More than a season before it kicks in, the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax is having the desired effects for owners. It's keeping payrolls down around the league and maintaining a sort of equity.
"People are getting gun-shy," Falk says.
But what happens when someone breaks away from the pack and puts a higher premium on winning than fiscal responsibility and wins? Historically, those teams that can follow suit, do. At some point the NBA could become like baseball and end up in a situation where only the teams with the ability to spend more than $80 million on payroll can compete for the championship.
"If you want to move to Beverly Hills, you can't complain about the prices," Falk says.
For now, however, sanity and some measure of parity prevail.
We know that the NBA champion will come from the Western Conference; we just don't know what team that will be. And is there a single first-round Western Conference playoff matchup that looks unappealing? If the season ended today, we'd have Portland-Minnesota, San Antonio-Sacramento, Lakers-Seattle and Phoenix-Utah.
The only teams that matter to the Lakers are Portland and San Antonio. They're the two biggest impediments to the NBA finals, and they also happen to have size and depth on their front lines. That's the Lakers' most glaring weakness and the reason why Jackson was so anxious to get another big man aboard.
If they couldn't do that, Glen Rice makes a pretty nice consolation prize. Perhaps now that he knows he won't go anywhere he will relax and concentrate on playing. Now that Jackson knows they're in this together, he won't play mind games with Rice by benching him for long stretches or calling him out in the media.
Actually, Jackson struck a more conciliatory tone in recent weeks, perhaps as it became more and more apparent that Rice wouldn't be traded. And Rice has no choice but to listen to Jackson now; it has worked for the rest of the team.
If Rice wants to get a $14-million-a-year contract after the season, the most compelling case he can make would be to play a pivotal role on a championship team.
"I think he's made the best of it," says Falk, Rice's agent. "Now it's up to L.A. to do the right thing."
Which, by Falk's measure, is signing him to that big contract or arranging a sign-and-trade that will allow Rice to cash in.
If Rice leaves, the Lakers will have nothing to show for their trade of Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell, as Falk is more than happy to remind.
But if Rice can help secure a championship and then walks, will it be worth it? Yes. That's the stakes the Lakers are playing these days. Championship or bust.
Although it's too late for the Lakers to make a major addition, the one addition still within their grasp is home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Their six-game sweep of their recent East Coast swing has enabled them to keep pace with the Trail Blazers. The Lakers are feasting on the East, with a record of 19-2.
They need to take care of business a little bit better in their own conference. If the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers in Portland on Tuesday, the teams will split the season series. Should the teams finish with identical records, the next tiebreaker would be conference record. Currently, Portland is 26-7 against the West and the Lakers are 24-9.
Not much changed throughout the league Thursday, an unusually quiet trading deadline day even by NBA standards.
The Lakers shouldn't complain. They have fared pretty well with the status quo.
J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
CLIPPERS LOSE: The final game of seven-game trip becomes 13th straight loss. Page 8
INTRODUCTION: The Lakers feel out new practice facility and seem impressed. Page 9