Magic Johnson for Los Angeles Lakers general manager? If the Philadelphia 76ers’ long game eventually works as L.A. continues to struggle, perhaps it’s not so crazy. At a speaking event on Tuesday, the Hall-of-Famer endorsed outright tanking by saying that he “hopes the Lakers lose every game.”
Via Neil Best of Newsday:
“I hope the Lakers lose every game, because if you’re going to lose, lose. I’m serious.
“If you’re going to lose, you have to lose, because you can’t be in the middle of the pack. You either have to be great or you have to be bad, to get a good [draft] pick.”
“The Lakers are in a good space, too, next summer if they can sign or trade for a talented guy. I’d rather be all the way bad than be in the middle.”
Seems a better route to us than winning an amnesty bid for Carlos Boozer and subsequently opening the season 5-16. Told of his former teammate’s wish, though, Lakers coach Byron Scott staunchly yet playfully disagreed.
Scott also mentioned that tanking a la the Sixers results in bad karma. GM Mitch Kupchak agrees, saying last month that he “wouldn’t even know where you begin” to implement such a strategy.
Via ESPN’s Baxter Holmes:
But the mention of “tanking” to Kupchak results in a lightning-quick reply.
“We would never do that,” he said. “This business doesn’t work that way…”
“I don’t even know where you begin. Do you call a coach in and say, ‘Listen, I want to talk to you about something. We’ve got to lose these games.’ And then if that coach leaves your organization in three years, and he says, ‘Yeah, the Lakers wanted to lose …’
“I mean, it doesn’t work,” Kupchak said. “And if you did do that, the Karma would be such that you’d probably end up with the 14th pick. But the message to send out is not the right message.”
Of course, Los Angeles is doing just fine gathering lottery balls despite trying to do otherwise. The purple-and-gold have lost three consecutive games by at least 16 points after winning two straight for the first time this season. Kobe Bryant is getting his points – and on the verge of a milestone – at a historically inefficient clip, and the team’s defense is worst in basketball.
Need more proof of the Lakers’ futility? They’re only two games ahead of mad genius Sam Hinkie’s 76ers in the loss column.
With the short- and long- terms in mind, Los Angeles has accidentally struck a balance. Its active offseason – even after missing out on the top-tier free agents – suggested that the team was doing everything it could to be competitive right now. Only the most optimistic Lakers fans thought that hope a realistic possibility, though, and the first six weeks of the season confirmed what we all knew this summer – that L.A. is among the worst teams in the NBA.
Is this a stealth tanking job by Kupchak and company? All chatter from Staples Center suggests otherwise, but that’s not a plan of action anyone within the organization would willingly admit. Scott also just inserted below-replacement level journeyman Ronnie Price and wayward youngster Ed Davis as starters.
If karma isn’t quite discerning enough, it might indeed come back to bite the Lakers. That’s how bad this team is.
Johnson is right. Tanking would be Los Angeles’ most prudent strategy, especially considering that it only retains this year’s first-round pick if the selection falls within the draft’s top-five. In their own way, however, the Lakers are tanking despite an insistence otherwise.
Things were going to be bad in Los Angeles this season no matter what; acting like they wouldn’t be is what’s keeping them from being even worse.
What do you think?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.