The Los Angeles Lakers are in that gray area, otherwise known as "between here and there." Their offseason is filled with more unresolved questions than a Tom Clancy murder mystery.
The only sure thing the Lakers know is they desperately need roster talent to support the core superstars who do return to the team in the fall. And they need to accomplish this with an extremely limited budget, being the victims of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement, which punishes the big spenders.
Dwight Howard's decision on whether to sign a long-term deal or leave Los Angeles for supposed greener pastures will determine what direction the Lakers should take in terms of additional personnel. Still, management can ill afford to sit around and wait, as the Lakers' competitors will also be in the hunt for potential free-agent bargains.
The "here and there" for Los Angeles refers to the team's current, bloated payroll for 2013 and its eventual (2014) restructuring, with most players being off the financial books a year from now. Regardless of what Howard decides to do, the Lakers will still enter the season with few resources with which to make big acquisitions.
The team was more than $55 million over the salary cap last season. If Howard signs an extension and the Lakers keep Pau Gasol, the luxury tax will be even higher this year.
In other words, the Lakers are shopping the bargain bin, hoping to find one or two steals who will make a noticeable difference and give life to the team's anemic bench. They've done it before, so there's no reason the Lakers can't do it again.