“Sometimes you need to take a step back to get better.” - Former NBA GM Wayne Embry
The Lakers will never tank. It’s the creed by which Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss are operating under this season. Kupchak and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni (or Mike Antoni, because, ya know, drop the D) are on the same page as well. Los Angeles is going to continue to start their best five players and try to win every game this season. That’s admirable; however, it’s not prudent.
The Los Angeles Lakers need to tank this season. Why are executives and fans alike horrified by the word “tank”? It doesn’t make much sense to me.
Let me pose this hypothetical question: If you had to give up one season in order to set yourself up for a decade of prosperity would you do it? If you answered “No” to the above questions I don’t have anything for you. I’m sorry.
However, if you answered “Yes” then we can start moving forward as fans of the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s clear that the Lakers are already in tank mode. They just won’t admit it. The team has lost 10 of its last 11 games and currently sports the 8th worst record in the NBA at 14-23. Without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and others the outlook isn’t exactly bright. When you factor in the Lakers upcoming schedule, which features a seven game road trip to finish off the month of January, the outlook is downright bleak.
Or is it? I’ll take the half glass full approach, thank you very much. The Lakers have the 8th best tanking record in the NBA. After the upcoming road trip they may have acquired even more ping-pong balls, and that’s not including a potential Pau Gasol trade, which Kupchak should be desperately searching for every minute of every day. The Lakers, while unplanned, have concocted the best tanking scenario of almost any team in the NBA.
The 2013-2014 version of the Lakers have been hit with a multitude of devastating injuries; however, they still play hard every night and bring an entertaining brand of basketball to the table. While it may not be a winning formula, the Lakers give their fans a show on a nightly basis.
On top of that, the Lakers have picked the perfect year to let everything fall apart. The 2014 NBA draft, as we know, is loaded. While it may not have a LeBron James or a Kevin Durant, it most certainly has somewhere between 5 and 7 All-Star caliber players. If the Lakers somehow put together a team that makes a late push for the playoffs but ultimately falls short, how angry are Laker fans going to be that they aren’t going to get one of those 7 guys? That is why “tanking” or “writing off” this season is important.
The Lakers front office has done a magnificent job of making sure most of the contracts on the books expire after this season. The team should be able to go out and sign either one max-level free agent this summer or a couple of really solid pieces for the future.
Let’s imagine for a second that the Lakers are able to land a player like Joel Embiid from Kansas in the draft and then acquire Carmelo Anthony via free agency over the summer. That means the 2014-2015 Lakers would feature Anthony, Embiid and Kobe. If nothing else that is a ridiculously exciting core of players. While that plan may be lavish and unlikely, we’re talking about the Lakers. Anything is possible.
Things usually work out for the Lakers. It’s just one of those franchises. This could go down as the worst season in team history; however, it’s happening at the perfect time. The team actually has a first-round pick, which has been a rarity in the Kobe Bryant-Mitch Kupchak era. They have a ton of cap-space this summer and the current roster is a wreck. It’s the perfectly executed unplanned tank job.
So what’s the problem with tanking? Can anyone explain it to me? Is it really a black eye on the organization that decides to reboot and rebuild for the future? No way! It’s smart. Are the Lakers really going to make the playoffs this season with this roster or even attempt to compete for it? Look at John Hollinger’s current Playoff Odds predictions via ESPN. The Lakers are predicted to have the worst record in the Western Conference and the 3rd worst record in the NBA. It’s horrifying to think of the Lakers being that terrible; however, once you accept the fact that this isn’t a playoff caliber team it actually sounds pretty good!
Do you think the Indianapolis Colts fans were thrilled when Peyton Manning got injured and the team finished the 2011-2012 season at 2-14 and then cut Manning after the season? Probably not. But look at them now! They drafted Andrew Luck 1st overall in the 2012 draft and have since gone 22-10 during the regular season and have made the playoffs in both seasons since they tanked 2011-2012.
The Lakers can tank one season and they get to keep their star player while adding a young stud and potentially another superstar. So, again, what’s the problem with tanking?
The Lakers are already in tank-mode; however, they don’t quite realize it yet or are trying to avoid the inevitable. This is a tank worthy team in a tank worthy year. It’s time to embrace the tank. It’s happening whether you like it or not.
The bigger issue is that the Lakers are 59-60 since switching from KCAL 9 to Time Warner Cable SportsNet. Oh, wait…. No one is talking about that yet? Uh oh. The cat is out of the bag now.