With or without Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers just aren’t looking like a team that’s good enough to rise above mediocrity (at best) and make it into the playoffs through the very difficult and competitive Western Conference. The question that lingers on since the beginning of this season remains – in a culture that’s about winning or title and not caring about anything else, wouldn’t it be wiser to start thinking about folding for the season?
The idea of tanking is a disgusting notion and goes against every fiber that the words sports stand for. The problem? The NBA’s lottery system doesn’t guarantee a top pick, but it certainly helps very bad teams improve their chances of landing a franchise-changing player when he steps out of college. Now there’s the talk of the 30-year wheel being put into use, but it doesn’t really matter going into this offseason.
The loss against the Phoenix Suns wasn’t something that taught us anything new about the Lakers. They were beaten by 27 points, showing once again that a combination of speed and strength with decent ball movement around the perimeter is too much for their defense to handle. The Suns hit 14 shots from beyond the arc, including five by Gerald Green, while Miles Plumlee had himself a field day in the paint with 17 points and 20 rebounds against Pau Gasol, this time starting alone as center. It didn’t help him look any better, finishing with 10 points and 4 boards.
The thing about the Lakers is that they’re the only team in the NBA that doesn’t know what it wants from itself by now, because of all the mixed signals. Mike D’Antoni is preaching fight and belief and his offensive system that seems to exist in people’s minds and on the paper but not that much on the court, especially without an actual point guard playing the game for them. The front office wants cap flexibility but signs Kobe Bryant on a two year deal that takes away any chance of being too active in the free agency market.
So the Lakers want to make the playoffs? Great, it’s just that the team they assembled around their core aging stars isn’t good enough to get there, not with the West being as good as it is. I’m not sure this team would be making it in the East as well, but it doesn’t really matter. The Lakers don’t really have tank mode because there isn’t a single young player you can point to that the team is thinking about developing into a player they’re going to keep for a very long time. It’s just about improvising and winging it with whatever D’Antoni has to play with, which isn’t too much.
You’re not allowed to say you’re tanking, but fans can see through the charade. However, the Lakers, at this point, actually believe they might be getting into the playoffs. Hard to believe? Pau Gasol would have been traded by now if their intentions would have been different, even though that a expiring contract isn’t the lucrative deal snatcher it used to be, with some teams preferring to let it play out and simply take the cash that frees up.
Some teams are bad and know it, others play with some kind of illusion stopping them from realizing the truth. The 2013-2014 Lakers are a very bad team that will try its best and still not make the playoffs. The bad part is that it doesn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon.