One of the ugliest things in the NBA is tanking. It’s even more annoying when teams do it without even trying to hide behind certain words. The Philadelphia 76ers are simply too bad for too long to say anything, while the Los Angeles Lakers admitting this season is sacrificed just so Kobe Bryant can have a nice goodbye from the league should be making a lot more people angry.
As good as Bryant was, a team can’t be sacrificed for his own pleasure and ego. We’ve been writing this about the Lakers for years. The Lakers can’t wait for the Bryant episode to be over. They’ll never admit it, but re-signing him was an awful, huge mistake. But it’s come to a point when there’s no use hiding behind anything. Byron Scott is showing 0 capability of coaching this team, instead he’s just making gestures and faces from the sidelines. The young guys are being held back. Bryant, through his good games but mostly terrible ones, is out there, on his own, enjoying while everyone suffers.
The Lakers being 8-28 means they’re not as awful as humanly possible. There are the 76ers for that. They’ve been able to mask their terribleness for a while before the league pretty much forced them to stop giving Sam Hinkie all the time in the world to lose and pick up second round picks. Jerry Colangelo was appointed as something of an advisor, while Mike D’Antoni is now an associate head coach next Brett Brown. At four wins, it looks like the Sixers might not end up as the worst team of all-time. Suddenly there’s a different kind of vibe blowing through the corridors of the ball club, which just goes to show how aggressive their attempt to lose has been over the last two and a half seasons.
The Sixers are all about youth development. The Lakers? They want to be there. They want to be moving forward, towards once again being a factor in a playoff race, a title race, and not the race to avoid the worst record in the league or the conference. But all for the glory of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are feeding the cult of personality Bryant loves so much to have. They’ve been terrible for two years, so what’s another one down the line? Assuming things get immediately better once Bryant leaves, including the ability to sign meaningful free agents, it’s a sacrifice they’re willing to make.
Fans are split on this whole matter. Not just Bryant, who always draws out arguments among Lakers fans and NBA fans in general. There are a lot of Sixers fans happy their team is going for the grand prize, even if it means losing a lot along the way, instead of hovering around mediocrity, with a clear, impassible ceiling always hanging above their heads. But the NBA, and sports, should be about trying to be better, all the time. While that may be the grand goal for both teams, there are better ways of achieving it, and you see teams making transformations without bottoming out and making themselves unwatchable along the way.