MILWAUKEE — It’s been a common theme this season, all those Lakers in the last year of their contracts.
It can lead to friction — Pau Gasol poked at the selfishness of some teammates after a loss last month in Memphis — and can obviously lead to frayed play.
But Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni has a different view. He hopes everybody is incentivized to play the final 12 games with a purpose, even if it’s primarily financial.
“They’re auditioning for 29 general managers. Thirty actually because this team, obviously you are,” D’Antoni said Tuesday after the Lakers hammered New York, 127-96. “You owe it to yourself to give your career the best jump-start you can give it. If you go one-on-one, then everybody goes one-on-one and everybody will look bad. We talk about it a lot.”
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Nick Young and Robert Sacre are the only Lakers with guaranteed contracts next season, though Young is expected to decline his player option of $1.2 million. It leaves a lot of players trying to extend careers beyond their contract expiration in June.
The Lakers like Jodie Meeks, but he’s in line for a solid pay raise from the $1.6 million he currently makes. They also like Ryan Kelly and Kent Bazemore, players on minimal contracts who might draw mild attention from other teams.
It remains to be seen what is done with point guards Jordan Farmar, who can’t stop avoiding injuries, and Kendall Marshall, a decent distributor with limited scoring range and below-average speed.
The big question is Gasol, who will take a pay cut from $19.3 million … but for whom?
D’Antoni simply hopes a two-game winning streak turns into three Thursday against Milwaukee.
“These are good guys that just have been thrown into a horrible situation but they’re battling,” he said.
Somewhere, Bryant smiled. Maybe.
If so, it happened only briefly in an otherwise dreadful Lakers season, but Xavier Henry’s effort against New York was a chip off the old Kobe.
Henry shrugged off a doctor’s recommendation that he get surgery on his wrist — an injury that occurred last week — and scored 22 points against New York.
“I think I’m just blessed with the mind-set of ‘nonstop,’ ” he said. “If you can do it, do it. Don’t waste any time with, ‘Aw, wait for next week and see how it feels.’ ”
Henry will have surgery on his wrist after this season and possibly a procedure on his right knee, where he has a cartilage abnormality.
Gasol stays behind
Gasol did not travel with the team for a two-game trip to Milwaukee and Minnesota because of vertigo that he initially felt last Sunday against Orlando. Chris Kaman will again start in Gasol’s place Thursday.