The Lakers are 5-16, among the NBA’s worst teams and giving themselves a fighting chance to keep their top-five-protected first-round pick.
But the Lakers are not bad by design, a West Coast version of the 76ers. Or so says Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who insists the team would “never” tank. Last season, they even lost a key late game that hurt their lottery position.
If the Lakers are trying to lose this year, they’re doing so secretly.
However, one of their franchise icons is rooting for the team to tank and tank big.
Magic Johnson, 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.”
There is a logic behind Johnson’s thinking – Mark Cuban calls it “the mediocrity treadmill” – but it’s jarring to hear a former great player support it. The type of competitive fire necessary to lift Johnson to playing success doesn’t lend itself to supporting losing.
Perhaps, Johnson has found a new perspective as he’s gotten further from his playing career.
Or maybe he just doesn’t want to address why the Lakers are so awful. If he did, Johnson would have to explain why Lakers coach Byron Scott – someone Johnson enthusiastically endorsed for the job – has failed in his stated plan to build a quality defense.