Lakers probably won’t be trading players

It’s the busiest week of the regular season, the cellphone-minute-burning, deal-making period from the All-Star game to the trade deadline.

The Lakers have been making and taking calls, but they’re still not expected to be big players before the Thursday noon deadline.

The Lakers and Chicago Bulls are at a stalemate in talks for reserve guard Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls want to part with Hinrich’s contract (two more seasons after this for a total of $17 million), but they will take back only expiring contracts. The Lakers, definitely conscious of how far they are over the luxury tax, have an expiring contract of note in Adam Morrison ($5.3 million) but they want the Bulls to also take Sasha Vujacic, who has one more season at $5.5 million.

The Bulls have turned their attention to other teams, leaving only a small chance of a trade with the Lakers. Hinrich, 29, was averaging 10.2 points and 4.4 assists coming into Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are well aware of what Dallas has done and what Cleveland might be doing with its roster. The Cavaliers have been rumored to acquire one of several power forwards: Indiana’s Troy Murphy, Washington’s Antawn Jamison or Phoenix All-Star Amare Stoudemire.

“We pay attention to it,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “If Stoudemire gets traded, that’s going to affect us.”

As in, Cleveland will be tough to catch for the league’s best regular-season record.

Dallas, however, didn’t do so well in its first game with newcomers Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, acquired last week from Washington. The Mavericks lost to Oklahoma City, 99-86, with Butler scoring 13 points.

Jackson said earlier this week the trade would benefit the Mavericks.

“I think they helped themselves in that trade,” he said. “I like Caron a lot. In fact, I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get a chance to coach him here.”

Butler was with the Lakers for the 2004-05 season. Jackson returned from a one-year sabbatical the following season, after Butler was traded to Washington as part of the Kwame Brown trade.

Still in progress

Assuming the Lakers don’t make any trades, their main difference from last season will remain forward Ron Artest, whose season can only be characterized as up and down.

He was averaging 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists before Tuesday’s game against Golden State. He obviously isn’t the Lakers’ first or second option, but he hasn’t averaged so few points since the 2001-02 season, hasn’t averaged so few rebounds since 2000-01 and hasn’t averaged so few assists since 2005-06.

“Ron is kind of like an X-factor out there,” Jackson said. “Some nights he’s killing it. He’s been very effective. Other nights, he’s hurt the team.”

Before Tuesday, Artest was shooting only 42.4% from the field and 68.2% from the free-throw line.

The Lakers, however, didn’t sign him to a five-year deal to watch him score.

“One thing we’ve been happy with is his defense,” Jackson said. “His defense has been an effective opportunity for us to limit our help [defense] and limit how much we have to go over and shade the area he’s guarding.”