The Los Angeles Lakers beat their hated historical rivals the Boston Celtics on Sunday night. In most years this would be a great thing, but there's fine line between tanking and beating the Celtics. Last night walked all over it.
The worst part about the win was how Byron Scott mismanaged minutes. Most striking than the Lakers late game collapse was how little the players who can be considered part of the Lakers possible core going forward played in comparison to the young players of the Celtics.
For the Lakers- Ryan Kelly 21 minutes, Jordan Clarkson 17 minutes, and Tarik Black 4 minutes
Now let's look at how the Celtics managed the minutes of three of their younger players:
For the Celtics- Marcus Smart 31 minutes, Tyler Zeller 36 minutes, and Avery Bradley 42 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Clarkson was the only member of the Lakers' young guys to play, playing less than a minute and not even sniffing the court in overtime. For comparison, here were the two lineups that played the majority of the fourth quarter for the Celtics:
Smart fouled out, but Zeller and Bradley both played the entirety of overtime.
These are not perfect comparisons, but it illustrates a larger point. The Celtics seem to have a consistent organizational plan and philosophy on which their coach and general manager are in lockstep: develop the younger players who may play a part in the team's future either as contributors or as trade chips.
The Lakers on the other hand sacrificed the future at the expense of a short-term win in the present. Not only did Scott play likely outgoing veterans like Price and Lin in order to secure an unnecessary victory because of his personal quest to prove he is the greatest and most Laker-y Laker of them all; but these veterans nearly blew the game at the end anyway.
Had it not been for Lin's best game as a Laker, Wesley Johnson forgetting he is supposed to be a bust, and Laker-killer Isaiah Thomas' ejection giving them such a big margin for error, Los Angeles could have easily lost this game due to their miscues down the stretch. Or as they are otherwise known, the types of problems Scott was trying to avoid by playing veterans.
It's not like Clarkson was playing badly either. He had 9 points on 8 shots and arguably still outplayed his fellow rookie point guard, despite Smart's much higher pedigree and minutes. Black essentially getting a DNP in favor of Carlos Boozer in a rebuilding year is borderline insanity, as is Kelly's short leash and continuing starts at small forward despite clearly being meant to play power forward.
A Vine of the post game scene captures an exuberant crew of veterans (Lin, Hill, Young, and Boozer) celebrating their last minute win:
It is inherently fun to watch players on one's favorite team celebrate a victory, but the part of that video that sticks out most (other than Boozer sneaking in out of nowhere to fuel your nightmares) is the absence of any players who have a chance to play for the team for years to come. Other than Young and the always fantastic Mike Trudell, it is probable all of those guys will all be on to other organizations come training camp in October.
Clarkson may not end up being a part of the Lakers future. The same goes for double for Kelly and Black. But for those three to not get chances to be on the floor in the closing minutes of a close game is baffling in the context of a lost season. When up is down and wins are losses, why not see if Black-Kelly-Clarkson are a Beautiful Disaster or if they might just Breakaway? If this trend continues, fans should be hoping they are getting to sing Since U Been Gone to Scott at this time next year.