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The Lakers, and When Tanking Isn’t an Option

January 3rd, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

Not a good sign when you just assume your neighborhood NBA team is tanking. Because they have been doing it so long.

Take the Los Angeles Lakers, nuked 133-96 by the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at Staples Center.

Those acclimated to seeing a Lakers defeat and thinking, “ah, good” … well, it is sometimes difficult to break the habit.

These Lakers are not supposed to tank — that is, not trying very hard to win.

This is a team that is supposed to begin climbing the standings.

Instead, they have tumbled to 11-26, second-worst record in the NBA, and we have to remember to choke back cynical “attaboys!” that would have accompanied this result a year ago. Or two. Or three. Or four.

Tanking does the club no good — because the Lakers do not have a first-round draft pick in the 2018 draft.

Hard to imagine, but the Lakers gave up this pick way back in 2012 in the horrendous sign-and-trade deal to obtain Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns, a piece of shockingly bad business (looking at you, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak) that has haunted the Lakers for years.

That one was two first-round picks and two seconds to add Nash to the team in a doomed attempt to extend its contender status. Nash, always fragile, hurt a knee in his second game with the Lakers and played 65 games in three seasons. So.

And it gets worse; the Boston Celtics get the Lakers pick if the Lakers land in the Nos. 2-3-4-5 slots in the 2018 lottery. If they do not, the pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers.

So, no lottery pick to chase down to the basement of the league. And, again, it gets worse.

This is the season, with rookie Lonzo Ball on board, Kyle Kuzma a surprise breakout star and Brandon Ingram in Year 2 of what is hoped to be a significant career, that the Lakers are supposed to demonstrate they are only a couple of max signings away from contending for the NBA title. Say, like OKC’s Paul George, who is a free agent at the end of the season. Say, like LeBron James.

Which looks like a bad joke about now. These Lakers are not two stars away from contending. Most of the guys on the roster look like they have marginal NBA futures, aside from the three guys mentioned in the previous paragraph.

It was Kuzma who said the Lakers “flat-out gave up” in the rout.

“You could see, they got basket after basket; we had no resistance on them on the defensive end and offensive end,” he said. “When things got tough, we tried to do it individually, and you can’t do that in this league.

“They took a little lead, and we just went to being selfish on the floor. We didn’t compete on defense. They killed us. … To lose by 40, it is pretty embarrassing to be out there.”

That result certainly will not make George or LeBron more eager to come to Los Angeles. Getting huge money might have been incentive enough, 10 years ago, but recent star moves seem to suggest elite free agents want to join a team that is one player from winning a ring. These Lakers are nowhere near that.

Perhaps some of the holdovers from the tanking era didn’t get the memo about giving a hoot this season? Maybe they can be pulled aside and reminded to try?


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