I won’t pretend to put this game in any other context than what it means — potentially, at least — to the Lakers’ chances of keeping their top 3 protected pick this summer. Let’s face it, we can talk all we want about the development of the Lakers’ young players, Kobe’s retirement tour, or even smaller storylines of Larry Nance playing some SF for the rest of the year.
All those things bring context to these last 14 games and have meaning. I’m interested in what happens with all of them. But, as the season winds down, a bigger and bigger story is whether or not the Lakers will end up retaining this summer’s draft pick. The final answer to that will depend on numbered ping-pong balls drawn out of a machine. But the odds associated with that drawing will be dictated by win/loss record.
The Lakers currently have the 2nd worst record in the league. The team with the 3rd worst is tonight’s opponent, the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers are currently 4.0 games “ahead” of the Suns in keeping their spot and holding better odds of keeping their pick. Tonight’s game is one of two remaining games against the Suns. Wins against them matter more than wins against other teams since it automatically shaves a full game off that “lead”.
So, these games, against this team, matter a bit more towards the goal of retaining better lottery odds (which directly influences keeping the pick). All the games matter, of course, but acknowledging how these specific games go can impact things is not some made up story. It’s not about being on “team tank”, it’s the reality of the situation.
Now, how you want the Lakers to handle this is another story. Personally, I don’t think there’s much to actually do, here. Both of these teams are bad. Either team could lose this game simply by bringing the same effort they’ve brought for most of the year. There’s nothing special to be done, no extraordinary steps to take. It’s why these teams hold the worst records in the West.
The coach, though, will be trying to win. He said so himself. I’m guessing a lot of you hope that doesn’t happen. Based on what I wrote above, that’s perfectly understandable. Also know, though, that if it does it’s probably just par for the course for this year.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.