Wizards vs. Lakers preview: The return of the Bean Burrito

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nick "The Bean Burrito"/"Swaggy P" Young and the Los Angeles Lakers play the Washington Wizards in DC tonight. Here's what you need to know.

Try not to think about what's going on with Bradley Beal. The injury really sucks, but there's nothing that can be done about it right now. There will be wicked pixels a plenty dedicated to how many minutes he's played, what this means for the team's immediate future and when he'll be back.

But that's neither here nor there right now. The Wizards have a game tonight.

Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.

Why should I care? Despite their struggles, the Lakers are still a fascinating team to follow, both for better and for worse. Also, Nick Young is the player Michael Jordan wishes he could have been.

Are they good? Shockingly so, although who knows how long it will last. The Lakers are a solid 7-7 thanks to a few out of nowhere performances from guys like Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake. Jordan Hill in particular has been great this season, averaging about 16 points and 14 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 59 percent from the floor and finishing almost every pick and roll that involves him with a dunk.

That said, there's only so far you can go when your best player is either Chris Kaman or the ghost of Pau Gasol, so they should come back to earth eventually. Even if Kobe Bryant defies the odds and manages to come back from an injury that is notoriously difficult to rehab, there's no guarantee that he'll be good enough to be much of a difference maker. Keep in mind that Elton Brand was a top ten player when he suffered the same kind of injury to his Achilles tendon and was never much more than a good role player afterward.

Who's out? Not Trevor Ariza!!! Yep, Ariza is back tonight and is expected to start. Otto Porter, Chris Singleton and, more likely than not,  Al Harrington will still be out for Washington, though, with Beal joining them. The Lakers will be missing Kobe and Steve Nash, plus Chris Kaman is questionable due to a sore back.

What are they good at? It hasn't manifested itself yet, but this Laker team should be really good on the glass. Gasol, Kaman and Hill are all capable of averaging double digit rebounds if given adequate playing time. Even though the rest of the team kind of sucks at rebounding -- Wes Johnson might do better now that he's finally playing more minutes at his natural position of small forward -- Los Angeles should have a major advantage in the paint every night.

What are they bad at? Getting to the line. This is where the absence of Bryant and Dwight Howard really hurts them. Los Angeles is 28th in the NBA in free throw rate, largely due to playing two finesse-oriented centers along with a bunch of perimeter players who lack the will or capability to draw contact and earn trips to the line. Of the rotation players, Xavier Henry is the only one who gets to the line more than five times per 36 minutes, and he's a notoriously weak offensive player. Young, Gasol and Kaman are the most capable scorers on the team and all three prefer shooting jumpers from midrange rather than taking the ball strong to the basket.

How's Nick Young doing? The Bean Burrito is off to one of his best starts in years. Check out his stats, per 36 minutes, courtesy of Basketball-Reference:

FGA FG% 3PA 3P% 2PA 2P% FTA FT% ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS PER TS%
15.4 0.439 5.3 0.333 10.1 0.495 4.9 0.787 0.8 3 1.4 1.2 0.3 1.2 19.1 15 0.545

Young is still a volume shooter and not much of a well-rounded player, but ... ok, that's all he is: a volume scorer who contributes little else. Still, he's one of the coolest players in the NBA and has always been a joy to follow. I can't find any clips, but The Domi.Nick Effect, a web series that Young and Dominic McGuire produced during their rookie season, is still one of the funniest things I've ever seen that was produced by professional athletes. Unfortunately it seems to have been scrubbed from the internet. There are a few clips spliced into this video, which also serves as a nice nostalgia trip for those of you who followed the team during the knucklehead years.

Young is one of my favorite players and his good and bad qualities had a lot to do with renewing my interest in basketball back in 2007. Even if the rest of the world sees him as just a chucker and knucklehead, I'm still holding out hope that, with the game tied in overtime, he'll turn face, rip off his Lakers jersey to reveal a teal and gold Wizards one, then hit a game-winning shot for Washington.

Who's going to win? Washington's playing at home and should in theory be the favorites. That said, LA is playing .500 ball against a tough schedule, so maybe the experts were wrong? I'll go out on a limb and predict a Washington victory tonight and a big game from John Wall. Steve Blake is in for a looooong night.

Where can I read more about the Lakers? Check out our sister site, Silver Screen and Roll. In fact, I'll even go so far as to recommend checking out their YouTube channel. They have a lot of original content and it's super slick looking.

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