The Los Angeles Lakers pulled out an unlikely win on Wednesday night, defeating the San Antonio Spurs 102-95 on the road. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Spurs, but came with a major caveat: it moved the Lakers ahead (or behind) of the Phoenix Suns in the standings.
The Lakers are now a full game ahead of the Phoenix Suns, holding the third-worst record in the NBA. As such, the Lakers chances of staying in the top-3 of the NBA Draft have dropped from 55.8 percent to 46.9 percent.
The win definitely didn’t sit well with a number of fans who are hoping the Lakers retain their pick, but head coach Luke Walton says his players can’t worry about that and he wants them to go out and try to win every game via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 6, 2017
Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. echoed that notion, saying that he is a competitor according to Tania Ganguli of the LA Times:
Does @Larrydn22 care that fans wanted a loss tonight? "No. No I don’t. I am a competitor first and foremost. My job is to compete."
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) April 6, 2017
Everyone wants the Lakers to hold on to their draft pick and losses increase the chances of that happening. However, players are always going to go out and play hard every night, and Walton is right to push them to do so. The Lakers are trying to build a culture and giving 100 percent effort every night is a major part of that.
Furthermore, many Laker players don’t have guaranteed contracts beyond this year. Walton sent out the lineup of Tyler Ennis, David Nwaba, Metta World Peace, Thomas Robinson, and Tarik Black to start the fourth quarter, none of whom are locks to be on the roster beyond this season so expecting them to give less than maximum effort when they may not be around simply isn’t feasible.
As Walton said, it is a lottery and the “Basketball Gods” will need to smile upon the Lakers regardless of where they finish. Their odds have decreased, but nothing will be known for certain until the draft lottery takes place on May 16.