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Lakers, Knicks to meet, as proud histories give way to rocky present

When Lakers and New York Knicks face off this time, it's with dreams of draft picks instead of playoff chances

Games between the Lakers and New York Knicks used to mean something. Rest assured, they still do.

Thursday's game between the two teams at Staples Center matters — but only because of pingpong balls.

The Knicks lead the Lakers in lottery percentages, currently holding a 25% chance of winning the top draft spot compared to 10.5% for the Lakers. Score another one for Knicks President Phil Jackson.

Round one went to Jackson when free agent Carmelo Anthony chose New York last summer instead of the Lakers, though it was more of a split decision because he stayed home and made more money to do so.

Both teams have cash to spend this summer and presumably next summer too, pitting them against each other (and others, of course) in the free-agent market.

In case anybody still cares about the present day, the Lakers have shown a little something recently, winning four of their last nine.

Score one for the Buss family? Uh, no.

Lottery-bound teams talk about victories in March and April being important for franchise morale, but that will be entirely forgotten when the pingpong balls drop May 19.

It almost goes without saying, but this will be the worst combined winning percentage for the Knicks (12-51) and Lakers (17-46) this late in the season since they started playing each other in 1948-49.

"It's pretty unusual," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Wednesday. "You're talking about two very proud organizations, so I don't expect it to last too much longer, either."

Kobe Bryant showed up for the team photo earlier Wednesday and his face said it all in the picture released by the team.

He didn't look real happy to be part of possibly the worst season in franchise history. The 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers had a winning percentage of .264. The current Lakers are at .270.

In the it-could-always-be-worse category, Bryant seethed during last season's team photo while waiting an extra 20 minutes because Jordan Hill couldn't be tracked down. Bryant, who glowered in that photo more than he did Wednesday, muttered under his breath at the time he didn't like posing with teams that were so far under .500. Those Lakers finished with a .329 winning percentage, NBA champs in comparison to this incarnation.

Thursday won't be anything like the 2009 matchup where Bryant scored 61 points, a Madison Square Garden record at the time. Anthony won't be playing either, because of season-ending knee surgery a few weeks ago. Jeremy Lin will be hard-pressed to match the 38-point, seven-assist game against the Lakers while with the Knicks in 2012.

Lin keeps in touch with some of the Knicks staffers who were there for the birth of "Linsanity." He's also familiar enough with the Lakers' tradition after spending 60-plus games with them — 10 NBA championships since the Knicks last won one in 1973.

This, though, is a mutual low for both teams.

"It's definitely weird," Lin said. "It's just the reality of the situation right now."

Follow Mike Bresnahan on Twitter @Mike_Bresnahan

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