4. It’s OK to simultaneously want the Lakers to win and keep their pick.
For all the pain of last season, the Lakers still won 27 games, enough to finish with the NBA’s sixth worst record and, following the lottery, earn the seventh pick in the Draft. That won’t cut it this season. The Lakers have to land in the top five, or their selection heads to the Suns. To guarantee they keep it, the Lakers must own one of the NBA’s three worst records. They won’t out-lose Philadelphia, currently winless and sporting a -16.5 point differential heading into Friday’s games. For everyone else, being catastrophically bad is not easy. A couple lucky bounces here and there, and suddenly you’ve won three of five! Drat!
This causes a great deal of internal conflict for Lakers fans physiologically incapable of rooting for the proverbial tank** but understanding the opportunity a top five pick presents for accelerating the rebuild. Fortunately, if it’s meant to be, the roster will take care of everything that needs to be done. Threading that Top 5 needle won’t be easy, but the Lakers will lose plenty. Meanwhile, while they won’t play well every night, hopefully they’ll play hard. That’ll make them watchable even in losses, and borderline fun when they pull off an upset. And make no mistake, virtually every win will be an upset of one size or another.
**For the record, the Lakers aren’t tanking. The Lakers constructed this team with the hope — the truly delusional hope — it could contend for a playoff spot in a loaded Western Conference. They won’t take heroic measures to save the season, but if they land in the top five, it’s by accident, not design.
5. Stay out of the weeds.
Despite the losing, there are still plenty of things to watch and debate over the course of the season. Is Byron going to run Kobe into the ground in an effort to squeeze out every possible win? Can guys like Jordan Hill and Jeremy Lin play well enough to create a vibrant market come trade deadline time? Can the front office, which doesn’t have a great track record of late for capitalizing on a player’s trade value (see Gasol, Pau) extract some goodies for their assets? Is the Cap Space or Bust! rebuilding plan really the best way to go?*** How does Ed Davis respond to what likely becomes increased playing time as the year goes on, and what does that do to his value on the open market once he declines his second year option? How much progress does Jordan Clarkson make this year? And so on. Basically anything that might be relevant to the Lakers of 2016-17.
***I really hate the plan.
It’s the wrong year, though, to worry about minute-to-minute evaluations of Scott’s rotations, or who starts (generally an overrated question anyway), or even to obsess over every single shot Kobe takes (I realize this is a long shot, at least in relation to the rest of the hoops community). This is a bad team, and marginal issues don’t make a big enough difference to cause stress in the same way they did in a season with greater stakes. Drawing hard conclusions about Scott as L.A.’s head coach will be tricky, given the weakness and transience of his roster. Whether Ronnie Price is deployed correctly — assuming there is a right way to deploy Ronnie Price — doesn’t really matter.
Generally speaking, it’s a season of choosing the best bad idea. That being the case, why get tied up in knots?[divide]
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