The Los Angeles Lakers are a woeful 4-13 on the season and haven't generated much in the way of good news thus far.
Between Kobe Bryant holding the offense hostage—with occasional breaks to set cool records—and a defense that is allowing a league-worst 113.7 points per 100 possessions, via ESPN.com's Hollinger rankings, there has been very little in the way of hope for Lakers fans this season.
However, there is still plenty of work to be done for the team to manage the current situation, as distasteful as it may be.
The latest batch of Lakers news involves some updates on contract situations—always of concern to a team constantly taking stock of its cap room—and a player who might be able to soothe the pain of a disastrous start to the 2014-15 season.
Lakers Apply for Disabled Player Exception, Reportedly In Contact With Earl Clark
The Lakes are in desperate need of bodies and are taking the necessary steps to add players. According to the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina, the team has applied for a disabled player exception and a hardship exception:
Xavier Henry will be out for the remainder of the season with an Achilles tendon injury. He joins the likes of Julius Randle and Steve Nash on the list of players who won't be suiting up for this campaign. Add Ryan Kelly and his hamstring injury to the mix, and it's easy to see why the Lakers could use a hardship exception to bring in someone ambulatory.
In fact, the Lakers might already have a player lined up should the league grant them the requisite exceptions. Forward Earl Clark—who spent the 2012-13 season in with the Lakes and posted career highs in points and rebounds per game—has reportedly been in contact with the team, per a report from Medina:
The Lakers have had 'talks' to sign forward Earl Clark this week, according to a league source familiar with the discussions. The deal is not finalized, but it’s believed to be a one-year deal worth $1 million. The Lakers could either wait until the NBA approves hardship exception to finish that deal. Or the Lakers could waive Henry, who is owed a guaranteed $1.1 million.
The Lakers would be better off not waiving Henry, as he is a young player worth keeping in the fold while monitoring his recovery from a potentially devastating injury. He's still just 23 years old and averaged 10.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in the 2013-14 season. Henry brings some potential and athleticism at a position where the Lakers desperately need both.
Clark could soak up the minutes previously allotted to Kelly. He is capable of playing as a stretch power forward—he owns a career 33.1 shooting percentage from beyond the arc, respectable for a 6'10" player—but his presence might also create a logjam in the post once Kelly returns to the lineup.
The Lakers already have the likes of Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and (occasionally) Jordan Hill playing in that spot. Then again, beggars can't be choosers, and Clark is definitely too good for the NBA D-League, per the Rio Grande Valley Vipers' official Twitter account:
It also seems general manager Mitch Kupchak could wait to make a move and try to capitalize on trade-deadline activity.
"We would have to find a better player than who is on our roster now since you have to cut somebody,” said Kupchak, via Medina. “I’m not sure those players exist as free agents. When we get something closer to the trade deadline, there might be something there.”
Clark also does nothing for the Lakers' long-term prospects. Signing him might provide a temporary boost to fans who remember the high-energy player from a couple of years ago, but his arrival would be akin to fixing up a broken window on a condemned property.
Update on Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price Contracts
Wayne Ellington and Ronnie Price were two under-the-radar additions to the Lakers roster this summer. While their contracts suggested they might not be in for the long haul, extenuating circumstances have guaranteed Ellington—and soon enough, Price—bigger paydays and welcome job security.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus, Ellington is now locked in for 55 percent of his potential total salary:
On Monday, his contract became guaranteed for $581,692, locking in almost 55% of his total salary.
The sixth-year, 27-year-old guard is averaging 7.5 points a game through 10 appearances, shooting 50.0% from the field and 36.7% from three-point range.
Ellington recently returned from a leave of absence, after the tragic shooting death of his father, Wayne Ellington Sr.
Pincus also goes on to report that Ellington's full contract locks in if he's on the team as of Jan. 10, while Price will nearly double his earnings if he's still on the roster on Dec. 15.
Considering the Lakers' injury woes, both of those contract scenarios are highly likely to come to fruition.
Ellington might not be filling up the stat sheet every night, but he brings a solid veteran presence to the team and can be deadly when in his element, per Lakers.com's Mike Trudell:
Price has become a necessary rotation player with Nash out for the season and the team opting to bring rookie Jordan Clarkson along slowly at point guard. He's a strong dribbler who brings plenty of energy coming off the bench. He's averaging 3.6 points, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 20.3 minutes per game this season.
At 31 years old, Price isn't likely to stay on beyond this season, nor is the 27-year-old Ellington. They are vital components to the Lakers this season, but neither looks quite good enough to be considered a building block for the future.