The Lakers' poor record actually helped them Sunday.
They acquired Tarik Black on waivers, beating at least one other team that put in a claim for the energetic rookie center after he was cut last week by Houston to make room for Josh Smith.
The Rockets seemed reluctant to cut Black, but it became a numbers game when Smith signed with them after being unexpectedly waived by Detroit.
“Tarik did a great job,” Rockets Coach Kevin McHale told the Houston Chronicle. “I told him he'll be picked up in our league. I told him in preseason, I said, ‘Tarik, you have to go out and open people's eyes. You didn't get drafted.' But he came in and had  rebounds in a [preseason] game. Everybody around the league is saying, ‘Dang, what did we miss on Tarik Black?'
“I really liked coaching him. A wonderful young man. It's a tough business, this league.”
Black also received an endorsement from Howard, who spent Christmas dinner with Black and his family while the Rockets were in Memphis. Black is from Memphis and started his college career there before transferring to Kansas.
“Personally, it was very tough for me,” Howard said. “Tarik was my guy. We spent a lot of time with him away from basketball, went to church a lot together, Bible studies, all that stuff. Tarik is like a little brother to me.
“As a teammate, he worked very hard every day in practice. He's a really good teammate, a really good guy.”
The Lakers like that Black communicates on defense, calling out screens and opponents' actions, uncommon traits for a rookie and something sorely lacking from the Lakers' big men most of this season.
Charlotte also put in a waiver claim for Black, according to Yahoo Sports, but the Lakers (9-22) secured him because they had a worse record than the Hornets.
Black, listed at 6 feet 11, will have his physical Monday in Los Angeles and can play Tuesday at Denver if there are no medical surprises.
“Well what basketball player doesn't grow up wishing to play for a historic organization like the Lakers,” he wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for the opportunity LA!!!”
Black could see solid backup time at center with Jordan Hill struggling. Hill averaged 13.9 points and 9.7 rebounds last month but was averaging 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds this month before Sunday's game against Phoenix.
Hill had nine points and only one rebound in 22 minutes of the Lakers' 116-107 loss to the Suns.
Another big man to throw into the mix was welcomed by Lakers Coach Byron Scott.
“If I'm a big and you're bringing in another big, it should open your eyes a little bit,” Scott said. “To me, it makes for better competition.”
The Lakers are paying Black the NBA minimum of $507,366. He would make a non-guaranteed $845,059 next season.
Xavier Henry was waived to make room for Black. He was lost for the season after tearing an Achilles' tendon last month in practice. He will still earn the $1.1 million he was guaranteed.
Kelly getting close
Ryan Kelly took part in three-on-three activity at the team's practice facility and could return Friday against Memphis, Scott said.
Kelly has had numerous hamstring issues this season and sustained a severe strain last month. He has appeared in only three games, averaging 3.7 points.