If former Lakers like Phil Jackson can tank, why can’t Lakers?

first_imgThis, of course, would allow them to keep it, rather than convey it to the 76ers.If that should be no problem with the Lakers’ current expansion team, they’re warming up, not icing over, with last week’s heartwarming wins over the 76ers and T-Wolves.At fourth worst, the Laker lead (counting backwards, of course) over fifth-worst Orlando, which was recently four games, is now down to 1 1/2.They’re t-t-tied in the loss column going into today’s game in Brooklyn, which is, happily for the Lakers, still in the race for a playoff slot, even at 31-40.Unhappily for the Lakers, they then go to Philadelphia to play the 76ers, whom they beat last Sunday in Staples Center. Unlike the Lakers, the Sixers aren’t leaving their fortunes to chance, having traded every player they had two seasons ago.Half of the guys they brought in are gone, too, including Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, dealt away in the three-way trade that brought that No. 1 pick the Lakers owed to Phoenix.The Sixers’ dream, of course, is to see the Lakers fall from fourth worst with an 86% chance to draw a top five pick to fifth with a 55% chance.The Lakers insist that they would never tank, but then so does everyone else.Unfortunately for the Lakers, they mean it or aren’t decisive enough to act … like last season when there was no reason not to tell then-coach Mike D’Antoni to ease off.Former Lakers, on the other hand, have no problem doing what must be done.The Knicks, led by Jeanie’s significant other, Phil Jackson, have the worst record and not by accident.Carmelo Anthony played just long enough to start the All-Star Game in front of the home folks in Madison Square Garden, then was shut down.One of two things has to be true: 1) Melo wasn’t hurt badly enough to shut down; or 2) He should have been shut down on Jan. 1 when coach Derek Fisher said they were considering it.Having parcelled off Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks look determined to shut down as many more players as it takes.Point guard Jose Calderon said he had no intention of taking the rest of the season off after spraining an Achilles tendon in late February.“Why?” Calderon asked. “I want to be with my team until the end of the season.”Last week they told him why. He’s still with his teammates, just in civilian clothes.If you can’t call this totally praiseworthy, I’d give Phil his merit badge in Bowing to the Obvious.With an impressive draft loaded with big men (Jahlil Okafor, Karl Towns) and point guards (D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay), the Lakers can’t blow this pick.Their free agent strategy has been compromised or blown to bits with most of the 2015 stars are spoken for.Many of the 2016 stars may sign one-year deals, waiting for the salary cap to go up $25 million in 2017. LeBron James has already said that’s what he’ll do. Kevin Durant is expected to do it, too.The Lakers are desperate, not only to turn this around, but to do it immediately, carrying the weight of their own expectations and those of their fans.Unfortunately, if pride goeth before a fall, it doesn’t make rebuilding any easier, eitherHow would they like to wind up tied with Orlando, lose the coin flip and go into the lottery, knowing they have a 45% chance of losing their top pick?If it has largely escaped noticed, that pick the Lakers owe the 76ers is top three-protected next spring.Personally, I’d make the Sixers wait to get it ‘til 2017.If the Lakers have to go through all this ‑ and yeah, they do ‑ they ought to come out of it with something.Mark Heisler has written an NBA column since 1991 and was honored with the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award in 2006. His column is published Sundays in Los Angeles News Group print editions. And Laker fans thought this season had no more suspense!Can you imagine anything more exciting than seeing young Jordan Clarkson get that rebound, draw a foul and win that overtime game in Minnesota?Actually, I can.Laker fans would be a lot more excited to see Jeanie Buss (or Jim, although he’s spotted as often as Bigfoot) draw a top five pick at the May 19 lottery.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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