Mike Bresnahan covers the Lakers for The Times. Readers' questions about the Lakers will be answered every Friday at latimes.com/sports.
Question: I'm not one of those fans with unreasonable expectations from a trade -- say, LeBron for D-Fish -- but what's a realistic trade option that could improve the Lakers' chances of winning a championship?
Specifically, could they get a solid contributor for expiring contracts like Morrison and Farmar? Maybe a more consistent backup point guard or three-point threat coming off the bench? Or even a point guard good enough to push D-Fish to a backup role?
-- Mark Harris, Van Nuys
Answer: Thanks, Mark, for not throwing out an unreasonable trade scenario. There are plenty of those in my in-box. And I mean plenty.
The problem with the Lakers this season is that they don't have Kwame Brown. That's right. Kwame Brown.
Two seasons ago, with a massive expiring contract of $9.1 million and a charming penchant for fumbling entry passes, Brown was the Lakers' ticket to success when the Memphis Grizzlies, dying to cut costs, gladly took Brown, six weekday passes to Knott's Berry Farm and a two-night stay at the Buena Park Good Nite Inn in exchange for Pau Gasol.
Can the Lakers pull off another stunner before the Feb. 18 trade deadline? Probably not.
They have some expiring contracts to make an offer (Adam Morrison at $5.3 million, Derek Fisher at $5 million and Jordan Farmar at $1.9 million), but most teams insist on the deep-pocketed, large-market Lakers taking back players who don't come off the books until after next season at the earliest. The Lakers gladly devoured more than $50 million in salary in the Gasol trade, but they're tending to be more financially prudent the rest of this season thanks to a league-leading payroll of $91.3 million and an additional luxury-tax hit of $21.4 million.
Can't blame them for that. Jerry Buss has shown Lakers fans the money, undoubtedly, and is already in luxury-tax territory next season by committing $83.7 million toward only eight players for 2010-11.
There are still five weeks until the trade deadline and anything can happen -- remember, Andrew Bynum's knee injury in January 2008 led the Lakers to pull the trigger on Gasol -- but I don't predict anything major at this point because I look at other teams' backcourts and see nothing but more years and more money.
Toronto point guard Jose Calderon has three years and $29.3 million remaining on his contract, Chicago point guard Kirk Hinrich has two years and $17 million remaining, and New Jersey point guard Devin Harris has three years and $26.8 million.
Hinrich makes the most sense because the Bulls are reportedly trying to shave salary to make room for an off-season run at LeBron James or Chicago native Dwyane Wade. But, again, it's $17 million over the next two years, which means an additional $17 million because the team will almost surely be in luxury-tax territory over the same span. In other words, is Hinrich worth $34 million over the next two seasons? Right now, the Lakers' front office is collectively shaking its head.
More likely, there will be minor fine-tuning before the deadline. There are always veterans in the last years of their contracts who ask to be waived by losing teams so they can try to latch on to winning teams. Among those types, Sasha Pavlovic ($1.5 million) is sitting on Minnesota's bench after hitting 41% from three-point range last season for Cleveland. Are you listening, Sasha Vujacic?
If not Pavlovic, there's another guy out there in the final year of his contract. A backup center for Detroit who goes by the name of Kwame.
Q: Regarding your prognostication for the Lakers-Spurs game, don't give up your night job.
-- Lewis Leader, Carmel Valley
A: No doubt, I let myself down with that pick. I wrote four or five paragraphs in this week's "Bresnahan's Take" on how great the Spurs had been playing and how they had rebounded from a 9-9 start and how they were the team the Lakers should fear in the Western Conference -- and then I pick the Lakers to beat them on the road!
You deserve better, Lewis. And so do all of our readers. My 8-4 record in weekly picks is just not good enough.
As such, here's a decree to our readers. Think of it as the opposite of an Oscar winner's speech.