(L-R) Jordan Hill #27, Robert Sacre #50, Nick Young #0, Wesley Johnson #11 and MarShon Brooks #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on during a win over the New York Knicks at Staples Center on March 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
As the Los Angeles Lakers come up against the worst team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, on Thursday evening, the time has arrived to clearly proclaim that the Lakers did not “tank” this season. At times, they were borderline not watchable.
Often, they looked like the worst team in basketball. However, accusing this team of "tanking" or hinting that they actively tried to lose games is reckless, irresponsible and simply not true.
So, how anyone claim that the Lakers did not actively “tank” with the team heading towards the worst record in the history of the LA Lakers? Simple, the Lakers never tried to lose games on purpose, i.e. “tank.”
This team was handcuffed in the offseason once Dwight Howard took off for the Houston Rockets. Considering the financial restrictions the team faced, the Lakers’ front office performed well to bring in athletic players, new blood and depth at point guard.
Jordan Farmar, Nick Young and Chris Kaman were three big signings, and all three of those guys could have likely earned more money elsewhere.
The same voices polluting minds with talk of "tanking" in association with the Lakers were complimenting the Lakers' front office on maneuvering to add useful pieces in the offseason.
The Lakers were never in position to win a championship this season, but this team, as constructed, had enough talent to potentially sneak into the post season with or without Kobe Bryant. As fate would have it, the Lakers were decimated by injuries, and in effect, injuries can take credit for doing the job that the coaching staff and front office refused to do.
Injuries “tanked” the season, but the players, coaches and management did not.
Often playing with one healthy inexperienced point guard who started the season in the NBA Development League, the Lakers struggled to compete against the best and worst NBA teams. The Lakers’ offense was centered on a point guard, and effectively, the Lakers were on the freeway with a kid holding a learner's permit behind the wheel.
Watching the team crash from time to time was easy to understand when Kendall Marshall was the only healthy ball handler on the roster for over a month of the season.
Even in the darkest stretches, the players and coaches were not actively “tanking” or losing in order to achieve a higher draft position. To that point, the players and coaches may not even be around to see the fruits of the 2014 NBA draft.
In the most agonizing moments, the Lakers continued to fill needs by signing players to 10-day contracts until a trade capped the roster at 15 players.
After the trade deadline, the Lakers had no options other than play out the season with the 15 guys on the roster. To stay honest, the Lakers never sat out healthy stars like Pau Gasol in order to lose a few more games. Players like Steve Nash, Xavier Henry and Nick Young attempted to play through injuries and help the team win, which would not fit the mold of a “tank” job.
Entering Thursday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Lakers have won two games in a row. Added to that, the team collected wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers in the month of March. Those results prove this group is not “tanking” and has no intentions of "tanking."
“Tanking” implies internal sabotage in order to lose games. This season, the Lakers have never “tanked,” and the term is offensive to anyone playing on the team, coaching the team or directly related to the team.
Sometimes, a team has a bad year. Clearly, the Lakers have had a bad year, if not the worst in the storied history of the franchise. Still, the 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers did not “tank” the season, and hinting that they did so further bruises a season that already has a giant black eye on it.
Most importantly, though, it is simply not true.
So, at this advanced stage in the season, can we please stop linking the Lakers with “tanking?”