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Lakers acquiring Gilbert Arenas is better than no move

February 13, 2012 |  8:08 pm

Just before he spoke, Lakers forward Pau Gasol turned his head.

He had just rambled a bit on why the Lakers don't need to make a roster change before letting out the Freudian slip that "we need something." So when I pressed him on that question, Gasol couldn't help but turn away for 14 seconds and gather his thoughts.

"We just need to play better," Gasol said. "We don't need a particular player. As a team and a player, your mind-set is to work with what you have. We have enough talent here to be able to play better and more consistent."

But the Lakers' performances this season entering Tuesday's game against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center show otherwise. They went 3-3 on a trip that featured an identity Andrew Bynum described as "discombobulated." Any sliver of progress, such as closing out wins at Denver and Boston, quickly negated with ugly performances at Utah and New York, respectively. The Lakers rank 21st in scoring (92.7 points), 15th in points per 100 possessions (103.1) and 14th in shooting (44.7%). The added practice time given to them did little to nothing to sharpen the Lakers' development. And the only marquee victory involved one three weeks ago against the Clippers.

In normal circumstances, Kobe Bryant's claim that the Lakers signing free-agent guard Gilbert Arenas "surely wouldn't hurt" would elicit some concerns that have nothing to do with Arenas' suspension for most of the 2009-10 season for his involvement with then-Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton in a locker-room dispute in which handguns were present. It has everything to do with his on-court play.

Still, the Lakers are better served acquiring Arenas than maintaining the status quo. Gasol gazed around the Lakers' practice facility to gather his thoughts about the team's needs, but he easily could have seen various teammates that illustrate why the Lakers need to make roster changes.

Metta World Peace stood directly behind Gasol shooting jumpers, something he's rarely done in games so much that an unnamed player told Fox Sports' Joe McDonnell many Lakers want him off the team. On the far end of the court stood Derek Fisher, whose 5.1 points on 35.4% shooting has contributed to a lagging backcourt that also includes a rusty Steve Blake and an inexperienced Andrew Goudelock. At various baskets stood Josh McRoberts, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono, who represent a bench unit that remains last in scoring (20.5 points per game). 

"I don't know what we need," Gasol said. "You tell me."

Well, the Lakers sure could use Dwight Howard or Deron Williams, but that remains unclear whether either deal would actually happen. ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reports the Lakers are pursuing Cleveland guard Ramon Sessions and Houston guard Jonny Flynn, but that may require more than the team's $8.9-million trade exception. That leaves the Lakers with Arenas, who could sign with the Lakers at the veteran's minimum considered he's sparked little interest since the Orlando Magic waived him in December via the amnesty clause.

This signing certainly doesn't solve the Lakers' problems.

Arena's eight points on 34.4% shooting in 49 games last season with Orlando marked a steep drop from his career averages of 21.2 points per game and 42.1% shooting. The current Lakers roster can't fully grasp Mike Brown's offensive system, so it's probable Arenas will go through a phase too. ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reported Arenas had similar blood-spinning procedures on both of his knees and hips that Bryant had this off-season in Germany to treat his surgically repaired right knee. But it's presumptuous to think Arenas will have the same spring in his step the way Bryant has shown.
But regardless of the double speak Brown provides on his team's development, they haven't shown any signs of improvement. They've shown glimpses of it, but nothing sustained long-term. Brown, for better and worse, has shuffled endlessly with his roster. It hasn't worked. So now's the time to make a move, starting with picking up Arenas.

--Mark Medina

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