Lakers hit the road, destination draft lottery

first_imgAfterward, D’Antoni and the sparse group of reporters traded knowing smiles and shrugged shoulders. Everyone knew it didn’t require five minutes to sum up what the beleaguered Lakers are presently suffering through. But almost apologetically the media drummed up some questions about turnovers and such, and out of duty D’Antoni obliged with answers.In short, everyone had their job to do. And on a lazy afternoon in between a crushing Lakers loss to the Clippers and an embarrassing setback against the Cleveland Cavaliers, everyone carried out their duties.If not sprinted through them in record time.Fact is, everyone was just going through the motions. Just as the Lakers do every night they take the floor these days, almost exclusively to painful results, including the grueling trip they embark on Friday. After Wednesday’s game in Phoenix, they’re in Boston for the start of six games in 11 days away from Staples Center.It’s their annual Grammy Award road trip when Staples Center sends the Clippers, Lakers and Kings away for a few weeks to whip the arena in shape for the glitzy awards show.It’s a trip that’s been a major headache, even in the best of Lakers seasons. But they typically survived it on their way to a high playoff seed in the Western Conference — if not a run at an NBA title.But this year it will serve as a potential death knell, the likely disastrous outcome killing off any remaining hope of a playoff run.If you chose to look at it negatively, that is.The better approach is to ponder just how much headway the Lakers can make enhancing their chances in the draft lottery.Because at this point, that’s far more important to the Lakers’ future than salvaging a spot at the back end of the Western Conference playoffs, a date against the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder and a one-way ticket right out of the draft lottery.I know, I know. The Lakers would never dare think that way. Or admit it anyway.They’ll play till the bitter end, their focus on winning and making the playoffs and quickly dismissing any thought of tanking for a prime spot in the draft lottery.I get it.Doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it, though.Don’t fool yourselves. The Lakers are better off losing every game this trip.That’s what it’s come to for the Purple and Gold — mostly due to a new collective bargaining agreement intent on ripping apart their empire and making it incredibly difficult to rebuild.I’m no conspiracy theorist, so I won’t say the new rules were directed exclusively at the Lakers.But considering what went down with the Chris Paul trade and the stringent penalties levied against big-spending teams, it’s impossible not to conclude the Lakers were the intended target when small-market owners help draw up rules to level the financial playing field.What’s done is done, though. And with the rules being what they are, the quickest way for the Lakers to rebound is to fall all the way to rock bottom and build back up.The last place they want to be stuck is the middle ground dividing great from terrible. Not quite good enough to compete for a title but not bad enough to get their hands on a young superstar in the draft lottery. And since they are not magically going to rebound into a championship team this year, their best bet is to lose as many games as possible in order to improve their chances of drafting a Julius Randle or Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker and teaming them with a big-time free agent this summer.It’s come to that for the Lakers.They’ll never say it, of course.But we will. At most, six reporters, including a pair of cameramen, huddle around Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni after a recent practice.And in remarkable display of brevity, or in this case utter apathy, D’Antoni’s entire media obligation for the afternoon was finished in less than five minutes and four questions.Back in the day, that was just a warm-up for Phil Jackson.Not anymore.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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