The Lakers started 2016 on a good note, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 93-84 on the first day of the new year and beginning their first winning streak of the season. The Lakers will have a tall task ahead of them on Sunday with the Phoenix Suns coming to town. The rest of 2016 provides several more key dates that will impact the Lakers organization:
Jan. 10: All contracts are guaranteed for the rest of the season. The Lakers have three contracts that will become guaranteed on January 10th; Tarik Black, Marcelo Huertas and Metta World Peace. It’s difficult to see the Lakers cutting anyone, Huertas is their only point guard outside of D’Angelo Russell, Black hasn’t been active in a while but is inexpensive and provides a decent pick and roll option, and Metta World Peace will be guaranteed $1.5 million but seems unlikely to be cut given how the Lakers value him as a veteran mentor.
Feb. 6: Kobe’s final game in San Antonio. Barring some circumstance that will sideline Bryant and a miraculous playoff push, he will be playing his final game at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX in February. Bryant is 43-45 against the Spurs (including playoffs), and he will have three more chances this season to finish with a winning record against his rivals. The Lakers lost to the Spurs 109 – 87 on Dec. 11 with Russell putting up 24 points, 6 assists & 6 rebounds.
Feb. 12-14: All-Star Weekend. The Association will travel to Toronto and celebrate All-Star Weekend. Kobe Bryant will in all likelihood make his 18th and final All-Star appearance. The Lakers should have participants in the Rising Stars Challenge as well, but how many remains to be seen with the current USA vs. World format. There is also a chance that we see Larry Nance, Jr. attempt to win the Slam Dunk Contest, the competition that his father won in 1984.
Feb. 18: Trade Deadline. The trade deadline ends at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The Lakers have a few players that could bring back favorable returns, but it remains to be seen if Los Angeles will be active before the deadline.
Mar. 10: Kobe vs. Lebron for the last time. The Lakers’ welcome the Cavaliers to Los Angeles in what will be the final regular season matchup between Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. This will be the 22nd matchup between the duo. Kobe is currently 6-14 against Lebron in his career.
Apr. 13: The last game. The Lakers will end their regular season at home against the Utah Jazz. This game will most likely end up being Kobe’s final game of his career after 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. This game will also officially conclude the Lakers’ record and let the team know where they slot in for the lottery if still eligible for a lottery position.
Apr. 16: Playoffs Begin. The 2016 playoffs will begin and the Lakers will participate if they finish in the top eight of the Western Conference (Editors Note: Good joke, Sheen). As of 1/2/16, the Lakers are projected to finish 21-61 according to Bsports.
May 11-15: NBA Draft Combine. Assuming the Lakers are lottery-eligible, they won’t know if they keep their first round pick at this point, but do have a 2nd round pick. The Lakers selected Anthony Brown in 2015 and Jordan Clarkson in 2014 during the 2nd round of those respective drafts.
May 17: NBA Draft Lottery. The Lakers will find out if they keep their top three protected pick during the draft lottery. The Lakers have a 55.8% chance of keeping their pick if they finish in their current position of holding the NBA’s second worst record. The Lakers will convey their pick to the 76ers if it falls outside of the top three.
June 23: NBA Draft. The Lakers will either have possession of a top three pick or no first round pick at all. They will also have ownership of their 2nd round pick.