At Thursday's practice, the Los Angeles Lakers talked about Jordan Clarkson's career game against Utah and dug into the topic of "tanking."
"Hell with that, man," Wayne Ellington said when asked about fans rooting for the team to lose. "Me personally, I'm a competitor. I've never stepped on the court or anything I do in life trying to lose at it."
Lakers coach Byron Scott echoed the same sentiment. After his team had won two in a row, the coach was not hanging his head or asking for forgiveness. Instead, the coach revealed he checked his Instagram account for the first time this year, and the comments he saw on there had the coach calling the "tanking" segment of fans "ridiculous."
"We're not trying to 'tank' games. That's absurd," Scott said at Thursday's practice. "We're going to try to win every game, and whatever happens after that with the lottery pick happens. But I think if you go into it saying 'we're going to lose every game to get the best pick,' I think it backfires on you."
Scott added, " We're trying to build a culture here of guys understanding that you have to come and play hard every single night, especially on the defensive end to give yourself a chance to be successful."
Scott also admitted that guys not having the luxury of long-term contracts on the roster needed to play hungry, and the coach still wielded his power over playing time. The combination ensured that the team would continue to play hard.
When the topic turned to Clarkson and the rookie's recent form, the dark talk of 'tanking' subsided and gave way to the bright future of the 22-year-old rookie.
"I think [Clarkson] see's all the guys that were picked higher than him and I think it is added motivation for him," Scott hypothesized. "He's got a little chip on his shoulder."
When asked whether he singled out players drafted ahead of him, Clarkson said his teammates had been coming to him before games and pointing to other rookies considered better than the Lakers' second round pick on draft day.
"I just use it as motivation," Clarkson said before giving it further thought. "I might have more motivation to go after some of the established stars."
Whatever the motivation, Clarkson appears to be developing and out-performed first round point guards Marcus Smart and Dante Exum in back-to-back games. Next, the Lakers go for their third straight win when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at Staples Center.
Notes: Nick Young did not practice, so he should be out for the next game. Sunday also sounded unlikely, but Scott said he did not consider the injury to be serious.