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Big dates for Lakers: Sunday vs. Miami, March 15 trade deadline

There are plenty of images that could be used for the Lakers’ 2011-12 season.

The NBA nixing the Chris Paul trade. The Lamar Odom trade. Lakers fans reacting in agony.

Metta World Peace calling Mike Brown an “all stats” coach. Andrew Bynum grumbling about a lack of rest between games. Kobe Bryant calling out the front office. General Manager Mitch Kupchak responding with a terse statement. Magic Johnson saying team executive Jim Buss, not Kupchak, was running the Lakers.

It certainly hasn’t been boring, but Lakers fans care more about winning, which hasn’t happened consistently.

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The Lakers are 21-14 after beating a depleted Minnesota team Wednesday, 104-85. They play Sacramento on Friday and get a bigger test Sunday against Miami, but their biggest date so far this season will be the March 15 trade deadline.

The Bynum-for-Dwight Howard trade possibility has cooled, and the Deron Williams-to-anywhere scenario also seemed unlikely after Williams told reporters Tuesday he was “just going to play out this season and look at my options after this season.”

Both players will be free agents but the Lakers are too far over the salary cap to sign either one, as per NBA rules. The only possible way they could acquire Howard or Williams is via trade.

The Lakers were close to a smaller deal with Cleveland for backup point guard Ramon Sessions but didn’t want to part with the future first-round pick they acquired from Dallas for Odom.

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The Lakers were so desperate for offense that fans eagerly digested rumors of Gilbert Arenas and Rasheed Wallace about to join the team . . . and were somewhat disappointed when they didn’t.

So the Lakers move forward with a seemingly rejuvenated Bynum and a masked Bryant.

Bryant did not practice Thursday and received treatment on his sore neck. He was still smarting after taking a hard foul from Miami guard Dwyane Wade in the All-Star game, though it didn’t show in Bryant’s 31-point effort Wednesday.

Bryant did not talk to reporters Thursday. He made only 11 of 39 shots the last two games before the All-Star break but hit a solid 11 of 23 against Minnesota and added eight assists.

“That’s a career game for a lot of guys, but Kobe goes through all that and it’s almost like, ‘OK, well, that’s Kobe,’ ” Brown said. “You try not to take it for granted because he is special and the stuff he does out on the floor is special.”

Bynum looked fluid in his first game after receiving a lubricating injection in his right knee, scoring on a variety of post moves and an impressive alley-oop in which he reached over two defenders and dunked Steve Blake’s pass.

“I was happy to see him get a couple of moves with a lot of strength and a lot of power,” Pau Gasol said.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan


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