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LAKERS-CLIPPERS REPORT

Talk turns to shoring up teams' weaknesses

February 19, 2007|Mike Bresnahan and Jason Reid | Times Staff Writers

LAS VEGAS — The party's over, so it's time to get back to work.

NBA players, coaches and fans seemed to have a lot of fun during four days of All-Star festivities here, but the season must go on, and the Lakers and Clippers face many questions as they resume play.

The Lakers (30-24) exceeded expectations before the break and would be seeded sixth if the Western Conference playoffs began today, but they have lost five in a row and might make a move before Thursday's noon trading deadline.

The Lakers and New Jersey Nets remain far apart on a trade involving Jason Kidd, with the Lakers less immersed recently because Kidd's back has flared up, a league source said.

Kidd, 34, had played every game this season until being sidelined last week because of a strained lower back.

The Lakers are also unwilling to part with Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and, to a degree, Luke Walton, limiting the pool of players the Nets could acquire from them.

Also, the Lakers are somewhat wary of Kidd's weighty contract, which calls for two more seasons at a total of $41 million, which probably would push them into luxury-tax territory the next two seasons.

If the Nets do decide to deal Kidd to the Lakers for lesser players, it would be strictly a business decision on their part.

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As for the Clippers, well, they were a mess before the break, many in the organization acknowledged.

The Clippers (25-28), who have dropped three straight and are playing poorly on defense, squandered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead in losing to the lowly Atlanta Hawks in their last game. They trail the Minnesota Timberwolves by half a game for the West's final playoff spot.

The Clippers have a problem with Corey Maggette, who says he dislikes playing under Coach Mike Dunleavy.

Maggette's agent, Rob Pelinka, earlier in the season requested that the team trade his client. Although Maggette recently declined to comment on whether he would still prefer to leave the Clippers, team sources said the seven-year veteran's outlook has not changed.

The Clippers, however, are not expected to trade Maggette -- or make any major moves -- before the deadline.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

jason.reid@latimes.com

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