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Jodie Meeks is one bright spot in a gloomy Lakers season

He is averaging a career-best 15.6 points and his game keeps improving, but returning to the team next season is not a sure thing.

April 12, 2014|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Jodie Meeks dives for a loose ball during a Lakers' loss to Washington back in March.
Jodie Meeks dives for a loose ball during a Lakers' loss to Washington… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Emerging from the rubble of the Lakers' worst season since moving to Los Angeles was the story of someone who shall inherit the earth.

Or at least a really nice pay raise.

Jodie Meeks has been the Lakers' most consistent player, managing to avoid serious injury and continually putting in an honest night's work during a dreadful season for the franchise.

He is averaging a career-best 15.6 points, almost double his output last season, but faces the same off-season question as almost everyone on the roster.

Will he be back?

The Lakers are interested in Meeks, 26, a soon-to-be free agent who is paid $1.6 million in a league whose average salary is $5.5 million. He's interested in them, too.

"When I signed here two years ago, I told my family that I would love to be here the rest of my career," Meeks said. "Learning from great players — Kobe [Bryant], Pau Gasol, and at the time, Dwight [Howard], Steve Nash. Obviously, I want to be here and it's a great organization and I love playing here.

"But on the flip side it's a business. Both sides have to do what they do."

The video clips his agent needs to send the Lakers came last month — Meeks dropping a career-high 42 points against Oklahoma City and outscoring Kevin Durant by 15 points in a surprising 114-110 Lakers victory. He made 11 of 18 shots that game, including six three-point baskets and all 14 of his free throws. He also had four steals.

More recently, he had 30 points against Houston on Tuesday but the end result was familiar — a 145-130 Lakers loss.

"I wish it could translate into some wins," he said. "I feel like I'm playing as hard as I can every night. If we were winning, it would be great."

Part of Meeks' career year has been season-long injuries to Bryant and Nash, not to mention absences of 18 games by Nick Young and 19 by Gasol. Someone has to score on this team.

But part of his success has been a new desire to take the ball to the basket instead of being typecast as a long-range shooter.

"He keeps improving," Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's something he gives you every day, something a little different. I'm just really proud of him."

Defense needed

Young had 25 points in 30 minutes against Golden State on Friday. D'Antoni wanted more from him.

"He has to be consistent on the defense," he said. "On our team, somebody will score. Nick obviously has a special talent, but he has to be consistently able to be alert defensively. Sometimes he is and sometimes he isn't. He's a little bit like the team. He needs to take that next step."

Young, 28, holds a $1.2-million player option next season but is expected to decline it and become a free agent in July.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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