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How can the Lakers upgrade at point guard?

6a00d8341c506253ef014e89569edb970d-320wiThe consensus on how to make the Lakers better next season involves addressing the point guard spot.

Former Coach Phil Jackson suggested it in his final exit interview when he said the Lakers need to add "more speed" to their veteran-laden roster. Former Laker Robert Horry clamored for it when he acknowledged at the ESPYs that Derek Fisher's "age has caught up to him." And team General Manager Mitch Kupchak has tabbed the position as the off-season's No. 1 priority.

But as we all found out growing up, just because you put something on a holiday or birthday wish list didn't always mean our parents listened. Likewise, just because we want to buy a beach house, drive a sleek convertible or take an extended vacation around the world doesn't mean it's going to happen.

On the Lakers' end, they face plenty of constraints. No one knows what the next collective bargaining agreement will look like and how much the Lakers can draw from their mid-level exception. They are coming off a season that featured a $91-million payroll, and their core players are locked into long-term contracts. In other words, the Lakers aren't going to be able to add an All-Star point guard at the flip of a switch. But here are some options on how they can address their point guard needs.

6a00d8341c506253ef014e611163e9970c-800wiSave up for Deron Williams or Chris Paul.

As most Laker fans have noticed when consulting these various free-agent profiles, the options are pretty limited. So as much as it's necessary for the Lakers to address their point guard needs, it's  unrealistic to expect them to suddenly bolster it. Instead, the Lakers would be better off working with what they have and then gear up for when Williams and Paul become free agents after the 2011-2012 season, presuming neither sign extensions with their current teams. Both players are starved for a championship. Both show elite point-guard skills. And both have much respect for Kobe Bryant.

This approach won't solve the Lakers' problems right away and could keep the team from winning a title next season. But making a push for a trade or a free agent this year might do more harm than good. It would require the Lakers to give away some of their resources for a short-term gain at the expense of a long-term investment. Any slight upgrade at point guard this year still may not result in an NBA title, and it would give the Lakers less positioning power to go after Williams or Paul next off-season. Because of how highly coveted they are and the salary Williams ($16.4 million) and Paul ($16.359 million) would command for next season, the Lakers would have to be tight with their finances this year.

It would be shortsighted, however, for the Lakers to simply unload salaries much like the New York Knicks did in making an unsuccessful attempt at LeBron James, because it would put them in a weaker position to win a title in the future. Andrew Bynum will have a team option in 2012-2013 for $16.1 million, but I highly doubt the Lakers would let him go unless they could get Dwight Howard. Lamar Odom enters next season with two years and $17 million left on his contract, including a team option in the 2012-2013 season worth a partially guaranteed $8.2 million, giving the team some possible wiggle room there. But other than those two scenarios, the Lakers would have to make small tinkerings to ensure they're financially in a position to get either Howard or Paul.

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ESPYS: Robert Horry, Cedric Ceballos, Lisa Leslie & Bonnie-Jill Laflin all argue Lakers need to upgrade at point guard

The overriding theme on what led to the Lakers' early playoff exit in 2011 pointed to their numerous fatigue and injuries accumulated from three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. The overriding theme on how to solve that issue pointed to rest and upgrading the point guard spot.

Of course, this is something that Laker fans have longly debated, but it's telling that former Lakers Robert Horry and Cedric Ceballos, former scout Bonnie-Jill Laflin and former Sparks center Lisa Leslie were so open about it moments before the 2011 ESPY Awards.

It's comforting for the Lakers that they believe a possible lockout-shortened season will do wonders in helping an aging roster recover from fatigue. Said Horry: "They have more time off to rest. If they don't mess with the team and do nothing ridiculous like blowing it up, they'll be fine."

It's comforting for Lakers center Andrew Bynum and forward Pau Gasol to hear Ceballos' spirited defense on why the Lakers shouldn't trade them, even if it could help the Lakers land Magic center Dwight Howard. Said Ceballos: "Dwight, I love the guy. He's unbelievable ... but those guys won championships. You have to go with the guys who won rings for you."

And it's comforting for the Lakers to hear Leslie's argument that "hard work" will help restore the Lakers to another title and Laflin's belief that Kobe Bryant can help lead the Lakers again. 

But this is also discomforting for Derek Fisher. Even close friends in Horry and Leslie conceded the Lakers sorely need to address the point guard situation.

"No disrespect to Derek Fisher. Derek is alone. I've been there, done that. They need a point guard who can distribute the ball, get everyone in order and not be afraid to tell Kobe no," Horry said. "You can't outrun age. I think age has caught up to him. There's some things he can do, but there are some things he can't do."

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--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

ESPYS: Robert Horry touched by well wishes over daughter's death

It's been exactly one month since Robert Horry's 17-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, passed away after living her life with a rare genetic condition, and the overwhelming fan support has touched the former Laker forward since then.

At the 2011 ESPY Awards, Horry thanked my colleague Brad Turner for spreading the word out about his sentiments surrounding his daughter, who was born on April 2, 1994 with severe respiratory issues and eventually was diagnosed with the 1p36 Deletion Syndrome, caused by the missing part of chromosome No. 1. He didn't allow the unfortunate news to ruin the festive vibe surrounding the awards show. And he's felt overwhelmingly appreciative to the fans who've donated to the Ashlyn Horry Foundation

"If you want to donate, donate," Horry said on the red carpet. "But if you don't want to, you don't have to. Make sure you know somebody who has a child, brother or sister who has a certain syndrome and show them love. That's all we're asking for, to show them love and understanding."

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--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Mark Heisler: Mike Brown has won Kobe Bryant over

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Note: We will have a live chat at 12:30 p.m. on Monday so bring your questions then!

-- The Times' Mark Heisler reports that Lakers Coach Mike Brown has met with Kobe Bryant twice, once at Bryant's Newport Beach residence and at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo, where they went through plays. Heisler also mentions that Bryant has remained silent on the Brown hire as a way of expressing his disappointment that the Buss family didn't alert him about the hiring beforehand.

-- The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding lists 10 things Steve Blake could have done better to secure a Lakers' three-peat.

-- Former Laker Robert Horry writes an open letter to his daughter Ashlyn, who recently died of a rare genetic condition. 

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky talk with David Thorpe, of ESPN.com Scouts Inc., about the upcoming NBA Draft. 

-- The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence believes the Lakers will shift their sights to Chris Paul or Deron Williams rather than Dwight Howard.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reports that Brown has considered his three finalists for his coaching staff, including Toronto Raptors assistant coach Scott Roth,

Philadelphia 76ers player development coach Quin Snyder and former University of Utah head coach Jim Boylen.

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Caught in the Web: Andrew Bynum poses with 'Grid Girls'

Before I start the daily set of links, I have to share this hilarious photo that's ripe for a photo caption contest. It features Lakers center Andrew Bynum posing with the "Grid Girls" at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. Bynum seems to be enjoying his offseason, but he might want to remember that he's in Montreal -- not L.A. -- so no need for the shades. Yup, life is good as an NBA player, and the picture is one example of why. (Thanks to the Riverside Press-Enterprise's David Lassen for the tip)

--The New York Times' Howard Beck reports that some in the NBA interpret the Lakers' downsizing of their scouting and training staff as a warning to the players union that the league's owners are serious about a lockout. 

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr reflects on memorable moments in Lakers parade history.

--The Bakersfield Californian's Jill Cowan details Ron Artest's visit to a local Boys & Girls club.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding lists 10 things Lakers forward Lamar Odom could've done better to help ensure a three-peat.

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Robert Horry's 17-year-old daughter passes away

6a00d8341c506253ef01348655f9e2970c-320wiAfter living her life with a rare genetic condition, Ashlyn Horry, the daughter of former Lakers forward Robert Horry, died Tuesday at age 17.

Ashlyn was born on April 2, 1994 with severe respiratory issues and eventually was diagnosed with the 1p36 Deletion Syndrome, caused by the missing part of chromosome No. 1.

"I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers," Horry told The Times' Broderick Turner. "It means so much to our family."

Horry, who won three of his seven NBA championships with the Lakers, cemented his legacy as "Big Shot Rob" thanks to his various clutch playoff performances. That included finishing second all-time for three-pointers made in the postseason (237), first in the NBA Finals (53) and consecutive three-pointers made in a playoff game (seven). But as stated in the Ashlyn Horry Foundation website, "In the game of life, Ashlyn Horry is the true champion of the Horry family."  The Times' Tim Brown penned a story during the 2002 NBA playoffs detailing how Robert and Keva Horry spent time with Ashlyn during physical therapy in hopes that she could eventually speak, walk and eat. 

"Everybody who knows her, they love Ashlyn like she's their child," Robert Horry told Brown at the time. "When people come over, they're like, 'Where's my baby? Where's Ashlyn?' They get on the floor with her and hug and kiss on her as much as she can stand."

ALSO:

Lakers Moments: Robert Horry's clutch shot

Las Vegas picks Heat to win 2012 NBA title

Jimmy Kimmel pulls a prank on Ron Artest

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Robert Horry's three-point shot over the outstretched arm of Sacramento's Chris Webber in the final seconds of Game 4 evened the Western Conference finals in 2002. Credit: Associated Press

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