The last few seasons, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers have been a weird spot while watching Larry Nance Jr. and the rest of the young team play down the stretch.
On one hand, the team needed to see improvement from its developing players so the front office could figure out how to continue constructing its roster going forward. On the other hand, the Lakers had their draft picks protected if they landed inside the top-three over the last two years, leading some fans to root for the team to “tank,” or lose games, in order to retain the picks.
Every fan wants their team to do well, but the realities of the Lakers’ draft pick situation left fans forced to choose between rooting for short-term gains (wins) and long-term ones (retaining their lottery picks), a bizarre conundrum when everyone is conditioned to root for their favorite teams to win throughout most of their lives.
Nance told Shahan Ahmed of NBCLA that the dynamic has been just as strange for the players on the team:
“It’s weird. You know what I mean?” Nance says, as he begins to explain what he, in fact, means. “Because as competitors, you try to win, you want to win every single time on the court, but meanwhile, in the back of your mind, every time you’re off the court, every time you see on Twitter, every time we won, people are like, ‘What are you doing! You’re messing up our…we need Lonzo (Ball)!’ And it’s like ‘What? This is so reversed from what it’s supposed to be.’ It just makes it really hard to kind of focus on the task at hand when that’s hanging above you.”
The Lakers don’t have to worry about those types of odds this season because the team does not have its own first round pick no matter where they finish.
While losing out on what will likely be a decent lottery selection isn’t really a good thing, the silver lining is that it will allow players to play as hard as they can without their Twitter mentions turing into a dumpster fire, while also allowing fans to cheer for wins without any guilt.
Even if the Lakers will probably do a fair amount of losing too, that dynamic still sounds like a much better situation than previous years.
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