Game 81. The team’s final home game of the season. Winners of 4 straight, playing a Pelicans team that will sit DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. They will be without D’Angelo Russell on their own end, who is in Louisville with family to mourn the death of his grandmother and tend to family issues two days after hitting a game winning 3 pointer on the day he found out of her passing.
If, like me, you thought the end of the Lakers’ season was just going to be a waltz towards the lottery….man. Not so much.
If nothing else, by keeping it interesting the Lakers have gotten people like me to remain engaged. Not just by winning games, but by giving the young guys enough minutes to spread their wings and allowing them to fail or succeed in a way which promotes their overall growth. As discussed on our latest podcast, learning to win games in the NBA is one of the things you only get experience in by doing it. There’s no tape study or practice reps which simulate that process; there’s no veteran who can pass on what it takes via a locker room speech or through leadership by example.
I won’t pretend to know how meaningful they are or how much staying power these lessons have. The Lakers are heading into an off-season where no one can say for certain who will be back, who won’t be, or what the composition of the roster will be. Change could certainly be afoot and that could certainly impact how whatever growth these players are experiencing now translates to the future. That said, I’d rather them have this growth than not.
Thinking about tonight, then, I’d like to see this team continue to play hard and find ways to make individual contributions which gets the team closer to victory. As noted, the Pels will be shorthanded and who knows what their interest level will be with them no longer competing for anything (remember, their draft pick is top-3 protected and most likely going to the Kings as part of the Cousins trade). Still, though, earlier this year this would have meant little an the Lakers would still be playing uphill to get a win under these same circumstances. So, I’ll be looking for the same thing tonight that I’ve looked for all season — a competitive effort where the guys do their best to execute the game plan.
Let the chips fall where they may.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.