Los Angeles Lakers vs Charlotte Hornets
Tue Mar 3, 7:00 PM EST – TWSN, SPSO
Line: CHA -8.5, O/U: 192.5
Time Warner Cable Arena – Charlotte, NC
The Lakers start a three game, eastern conference road trip beginning tonight in Charlotte. The Hornets sit just a half game out of the 8th seed in the woeful east, so these games matter for them a great deal. After having a surprise season last year, the Hornets fell back to earth this campaign as they’ve struggled with injuries, adjusting to Lance Stephenson’s presence on the perimeter, and the departure of Josh McRoberts to the Heat in free agency.
There was also a regression to the mean of sorts, as the team struggled to recapture it’s high functioning defense while still struggling to post an offense that could crack the top half of the league.
Ultimately, though, deciphering the difference between this season and last’s performance isn’t of the most importance right now. The Hornets would surely just like to make the playoffs, continue the good feelings from last year, and collect some extra revenue from some home playoff games in the process.
The Lakers, of course, are also playing meaningful games, but of an entirely different sort. As we’ve been discussing, every loss matters for a team who really does need to keep their draft pick. They got back on that path against the undermanned Thunder on Sunday, but that was after winning three straight games against other non-playoff teams.
Of course, if you ask the players, they’re only focused on winning. Which makes for an interesting contrast with what a large (and growing) percentage of what fans want. But that is a story for another day.
Today is mostly about a team who should nothing more than to win (the Hornets) against a team who, in theory, should want nothing more than to lose. In a perfect world (or perfect to some), both teams would come out “winners” tonight, then. We’ll see if that ends up being the case.
Where you can watch: 4pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.
Clarkson is looking good.
Keep posting up Sacre! This is the game where he breaks out the skill set he’s been hiding.
I thought it might be helpful to review the percentage odds that the Lakers keep their pick in the upcoming draft. The stats are courtesy of the 76ers:
– If the Lakers finish with the 3rd worst record in the league, there is a 96% chance that the Lakers keep their pick.
– If the Lakers finish with the 4th worst record, there is an 82% chance that the Lakers pick will be in the top 5.
– However, if the Lakers finish with the 5th worst record there is only a 57% chance we keep the pick.
The Lakers are currently 4th worst but only have a 1.5 game cushion between them and the 5th worst team the Magic. We are closer to having a 43% chance of losing the pick than of we are of having more favorable odds of keeping it.
We are winning games that are meaningless. Meaningless! Players that will not be part of the team a year from now are being allowed to impact the next 5 – 10 years of the franchise.
None of it makes no sense to me.
J C says
The tank is back on track.
Special thanks to Mo Williams.
Tonight, Kentucky defeated Georgia (in NCAA basketball), 72-64. In that game, Karl-Anthony Towns had the following line:
Kentucky was actually down by 7 pts. with about 10 minutes left. Then Towns took over. Actually, at that point, Towns only had 4 points. That means, he scored 15 in less than 10 minutes and almost single-handedly preserved the win for his team. He was, I thought, a man among boys. No one could guard him. He only needs to learn to defend without fouling.
Even though he’ll need some further development (he is, after all, only 19 years old), I sense that Towns will be an excellent addition to whatever NBA team is lucky enough to draft him. He seems to be getting better and better.
Mid-Wilshire that was a good game. No player on Georgia’s team could guard Towns, and he took advantage of his size down low. Very good game.
-To piggyback on Todd’s comment: “The Lakers, currently with the 4th-worst record in the NBA, will retain their 2015 first-round pick only if it lands in the top 5. Otherwise, it goes to Philadelphia stemming from the Lakers acquisition of Steve Nash back in 2012 (Phoenix traded the rights to the pick to Philadelphia at the trade deadline). If the Lakers finish with the league’s 4th-worst record, they would have an 82.8 percent of keeping the pick. If the Lakers enter the lottery with the league’s 4th-worst record, the percentages would be in their favor – but recent history shows it wouldn’t be wise to be overly confident about the Lakers keeping the pick. Over the last 5 years, teams that had a pre-lottery position of 4th dropped at least one spot in 4 of the 5 years. And on two occasions, those teams dropped two spots down to 6th (2010 and 2011), which the Lakers need to avoid or else they lose the pick entirely.”
ESPN Stats & Information
Got to love the deals this front office puts together…not!
Mid-Wilshire: Don’t worry. If the Lakers miss out on the draft this summer, in ten years, Jim can still buy the downside of Towns’ career when he hits the market as a max unrestricted free agent.
I looked at the standings this morning. We have a 2 game cushion versus Orlando (5th worst team) and a 4 game cushion versus Denver (6th worst team). Building on Todd and BCS’s comments above, if the Lakers finish with the 6th worst record the odds are overwhelming against us moving up (79% chance we lose our pick). Now, as BCS says there is precedence for a team out of the top 5 picks to move up – its just statistically not likely.
The point is why are we even playing with fire. Why aren’t we pushing for the third worst record where the statistical odds are overwhelmingly in our favor to keep the pick? On the heels of all of the poor decisions they have made, losing this pick by winning meaningless games will call into question our FOs competence. This will be magnified by the fact the only way to improve the team will be to purchase older overpriced talent on the FA market.
The FO didn’t do Byron any favors by not buying out Boozer or Lin before March 1st. Its not fair to have losing games on the coaches plate. As we have seen, with the 3 game win streak, Byron will coach to win. It seems to me that even when the near future of the team is in question the FO is not able to grasp the situation and make the right moves – we need to lose enough games to keep our pick.
Subtle moves should have been made by the FO as soon as Kobe went down so that drastic,and obvious, moves wouldn’t need to be made now. In my mind the team will be better next year, so losing our top 5 pick this year means we will get to keep our pick — likely in the teens next summer.
I believe that I am on record here as saying I trust Mitch Kupchak. I am also on record as not being a fan of Jim Buss. So I guess that puts me in the mixed emotions group relating to our FO.
Mitch did go on record in late February saying: “We’re going to look to do this the right way, which is to try to make prudent decisions about youth and veterans and making commitments to players under the existing rules. I’d love to be able to put together a young team that can win 55 games next year, but it’s not that easy. It’s just not that easy. It’s not off the table. It’s our goal, but we want to make sure we do it the right way.”
I chose to focus on the words: “I’d love to be able to put together a young team…” I want to believe that Mitch will be able to follow through on this vision. However, I am not very trusting of Jim. Part of me feels that Jim just doesn’t get it and his motivation is not focused solely on making the team better. So right or wrong that’s why I am concerned about the future — because I feel Jim will intervene and exert his authority and make the wrong decision.
I”m not alone in hoping that Mitch is allowed to execute his approach and do this the right way.
J C says
Agree with all these opinions.
However the FO has gone on record as saying, We Don’t Tank.
Whether that’s just spin or contains an ounce of truth is debatable, but if Laker pride still exists and they’re seeing things through the same rose-colored glasses through which they viewed their chances of landing Lebron, it’s still possible that they just can’t bring themselves to lose games intentionally or tell their coach to lose.
You literally cannot tell a player to turn the ball over at crunch time.
You cannot tell a player to miss a free throw.
And you probably can’t tell a coach that wins are to be avoided. They are still obligated to appear competitive. They probably have told Byron, give these young players plenty of burn. And he’s doing that.
The most they can do or could have done by now is to trade players for draft picks and they didn’t do that. I am not seeing Lin or Boozer buyouts on the horizon.
If we’re within a game or two in the last week of the season, maybe we see some more blatant tank strategies such a sudden or mysterious hamstring injury to a starter.
But if the Lakers refuse to tank and are literally giving it their all despite the consequences, you have to admire at least their integrity if not their intelligence.
It seems like there are a lot people pushing for the team to tank. Unfortunately, there is a very important group of people who are greatly opposed to losing a bunch of games, and that is the players. Most of these guys do not have guaranteed contracts next year, and they really want to be playing basketball come next November. So it is in their best interest to play as hard and as well as possible.
Serious question: what can the FO realistically do to “ensure” a tank at this point? Seems to me that its a dammed if they do dammed if they dont situation. Thoughts?
T. Rogers says
They could have bought out their veteran (and best) players like Hill, Lin, and/or Boozer. Those guys are all playing for new contracts. They have the most experience. And on a good night they can turn just enough games to move the Lakers out of the top five. That’s how teams tank. Is it a guarantee? No. But it moves them a lot closer.
TRogers: I do not know if I agree with the whole buy-out argument – but only because I do not know how the salary cap max and min work.
What is unclear to me is the following: I think the Lakers payroll is right at the league minimum. I know that buy outs count against the cap for purposes of calculating cap room, but how does that impact the league minimum for team salaries? What I mean is that, for example, can we simply cut J Lin without having to add back $8m worth of salary since by cutting J Lin the Lakers would fall below the minimum payroll that each team must have?
bryan S. says
Anon: Buyouts. Boozer, Lin, even Hill. Boozer is a guy who isn’t going to complain, so he will probably be okay to sit and let Tarik Black take his minutes. He is in a different place than the young guys and has demonstrated already to prospective buyers that he can still contribute effectively. Lin and Hill are in a different place. Lin in particular, is playing hard for his next contract. It’s pretty hard for the FO to sit a good player like Lin; there are likely negative ramifications to doing so with agents . So, either they want to keep Lin (because they’ve finally figured out how to play him and see that he is pretty good), or they want to do the right thing and play him for the reasons cited. If it is the latter, a buyout is in order. ( Not sure when the deadline for adding players is.)
Tank watch: This could be a good night. Lakers have a very good shot at losing to the Heat, coming off a loss last night to the Hornets. (lakes playing hard tho . . .) Suns at Magic: Suns struggling since the Dragic/Thomas trade, Orlando good enough to get a home win. Nuggets at Wolves: Wolves have been close in the last few games, losing because of inexperience and guys missing games. Both Pekovic and Kevin Martin are listed as questionable tonight; in spite of that I still like Minny’s chances. A Wolves win would be great, a Nuggets win keeps them from sliding closer to the bottom five.
Craig W. says
The front office WILL NOT tank. Not much more needs to be said.
The players WILL NOT tank.
Will the coach try to tank? Probably not.
Therefore, this is now entirely out of our hands and we should support our team. If it doesn’t have enough talent to avoid the 3rd worst record, so be it. However, the vast majority of the betting public is thinking 4th worst record and then a crapshoot.
The message ‘tanking’ fans sends to the players is that the organization should be a loser. Maybe that occurs because of the stupidity of NBA owners in the last CBA, but the impact will be on the Laker ball-club going forward. This is not something any of us should want for our team – going forward.
bryan S. says
The players will not tank.
The FO will not tank.
That has yet to be determined. Personally hoping that ‘Laker Exceptionalism’ is jettisoned and the FO understands the potential gravity of losing this pick. The new CBA requires teams to employ every available strategic advantage (including tanking) to beat the odds and land a top talent.
the message tanking fans sends to players
Seriously, Craig. You really underestimate the intelligence, savvy and ability of players/agents to look out for their interests. They don’t care how a team gets there; they want to go where there’s talent first, market size/geographical desirability second etc. “Loser mentality” may apply to a team like Philly, but suddenly “losers” like Utah and Minnesota are looking pretty good. No negligible negative impact whatsoever to playing out the season for *player development* than for wins. Fans ain’t dumb either.
Forum Blue and Gold… The last place on earth where some people don’t believe the FO and the coach are tanking. Impressive.
If you want to support a team that won’t tank/rebuild move to NYC and ask Knicks fans how that has worked out he last fifteen years.
The players and coach are not going to lose on purpose, nor should they. If the FO bought out Lin and Boozer the Lakers would have only had 8 active players (9 if young plays), 5 of which play C and PF.I don’t see how they can put a team on the floor in that scenario. Plus as anon pointed out, due to minimum salary rules I don’t know that the Lakers could cut Lin. Plus my bet would be cutting them for the sole purpose of losing would be to obvious and the league would fine the Lakers.
I know getting one of the top players in the draft is desirable but the Lakers are not going to lose on purpose in order to do so.
Baylor Fan says
Philadelphia is not trying to tank either or so says their GM. However, the Lakers getting a bunch of castoffs on 1 and 2 year contracts is definitely not trying to win. As far as keeping scores down, players have learned ways to do that since grade school. How many times have they been told to not run up the score on an over-matched opponent? Boston has mastered end of game strategies over the last few years and it usually revolves around putting the least experienced players on the floor together.
lil pau says
The spin, of course, would that the Lakers ‘would be doing those veteran players a favor’ by giving them a chance to join a competitor. You know, ‘honoring their service… etc etc.’ Even if the league realizes it’s truly in service of a tank and a high draft pick, I don’t see penalties being issued, assuming of course no league rules are violated re: #s or team salary.
Is Aaron the last person on this site who believes that Byron was told, and has agreed, to intentionally lose? I must admit– this season is inducing a case of schizophrenia– when I watch the team, I want them to win, but when I check the standings (or check in online to get an update the few games I don’t actually watch), I want them to lose.
Which will happen first, the season will end or my head will explode? Damn they better keep that pick.
Craig W.: The message ‘tanking’ fans sends to the players is that the organization should be a loser.
No the message we are sending to the FO is that we are tired of losing and instead of trusting you to bring in the next fading elite free agent (‘Melo’) we’d prefer you bring in a young controllable franchise talent that has a ‘win window’ beyond two years.
bryan S. says
Craig W. : reply to you stuck in mod
T. Rogers says
Losing, be it on purpose or by accident, is an infectious disease. Whatever great negative that would come because of tanking can’t be worse than the team’s current reality.
Craig has always been very concerned about fan behavior and fan talk; most of his posts reference it one way or another and then go on to direct fans as to how we should, in fact, behave and talk. Other guys who focused a lot on this have mostly dropped off the site.
As to tanking: players have good games, so I think it is mostly futile to suggest that Scott should try or is trying to strategize and finesse tanking by pulling certain guys at certain times, changing rotations, etc. There are plenty of better reasons to criticize Scott than that. WRT to the FO, again, there are easier and cheaper ways to tank than giving tens of millions of dollars to guys like Young and Boozer, and there are far worse players out there for the minimum than Ed Davis. I also find it hard to believe that there was no way at all to get Lin and Hill off the team, and Lin at this point would be a logical buy-out candidate. There are playoff teams that could use him on their benches.
Finally, it is important to remember that if the Lakers do keep the pick, it is has less protection on it next year: Top 3, and I think it is unwise to presume that next year’s team will be better than this one.
Todd: No the message we are sending to the FO is that we are tired of losing and instead of trusting you to bring in the next fading elite free agent (‘Melo’) we’d prefer you bring in a young controllable franchise talent that has a ‘win window’ beyond two years.
Nice take, by the way.
As mentioned above, I trust Mitch and truly hope that he has every intention of building with youth. I’m not in favor of tanking the season from the get go (like the 76ers). However, this Lakers team is going nowhere and our options to get better are limited to how the winds blow in free agency. We were playing at a .250 win clip prior to the mini streak – I see no problem with ensuring we play to that pace the balance of the season.
I do not have confidence that Jim will make the right FA decisions. Last summer we went all in on Lebron and Melo. Lebron wouldn’t even meet with us and we barely escaped from being saddled with Melo’s four year max deal . He would have further handicapped the organization as opposed to helping it.
So, I agree — by keeping the pick we limit the damage that Jim can do to the franchise. My thought is that Clarkson, a healthy Randle and a top 5 pick give us a young enough core that the FO would then realize that an aging elite FA does little to help the team as the youngsters will need a few seasons to get their NBA legs anyway. So foolish spending on 30+ year old FAs would give way to obtaining younger talent with time horizons on par with our core.
I think fan interest and ratings will sky rocket even if we struggle for the next few years. As long as there is hope, in the form of a young talented nucleus, Lakers fans will get behind the team. We have trouble supporting a team that is comprised of players that even the FO does not expect to be here for more than one year — like the Lakers teams we have seen these past few years.
rr: Finally, it is important to remember that if the Lakers do keep the pick, it is has less protection on it next year: Top 3, and I think it is unwise to presume that next year’s team will be better than this one.
My nightmare scenario is that we miss out on the pick this summer and Jim feels pressure to turn this thing around. However, all of the young RFAs and FAs bypass the Lakers (because, let’s be honest, we are a mess). Desperate to make a splash Jim signs Rondo for four years at the max.
Rondo, pushes Clarkson to the SG role where his size becomes an issue and he loses the momentum of his rookie season. The team struggles, misses the playoffs and nets a pick in the back of the lottery. I think this scenario dooms us for the balance of the decade.
My nightmare scenario is that we miss out on the pick this summer and Jim feels pressure to turn this thing around.
Well, that is possible, but I think it may be the opposite, in that if they keep the pick, the FO will want to try to make sure that the 2016 team is competitive enough so that PHX only gets the 11th pick or whatever. So, if they do get, say, Towns, I expect they will spend money on a 3.