Tank Watch has been on a lengthy hiatus, going silent since the last entry on March 18th (about 3 weeks). Why? The Los Angeles Lakers were winning too much, going on a 3-4 run that looked like it could potentially leave them as low as fifth in the draft lottery odds rankings. After that spurt of mediocrity, the team proceeded to get the tank back on track, losing it's next five games.
With the Lakers locked into no worse than the 4th best lottery odds (more on this at the end of the column), this will be the last Tank Watch until the end of season round-up. Comment with your season award winners, or tweet them to @hmfaigen.
Tank Play of the Week
The entire Lakers-Clippers game on Sunday
The past two seasons nothing has brought out the worst (best?) in the Lakers like the Clippers. There have been covered up banners, lopsided scores, and alley-oops aplenty. Doc Rivers seems to believe that if he can just beat the Lakers by enough points, he will get a 2010 championship ring.
Instead, he has mostly just aided in the team's rebuilding efforts by handing them a few (albeit painful to watch and often nationally televised) losses. And while the Lakers were much more competitive in the Tuesday rematch, Sunday may have taken the cake for the most embarrassing plays in the recent history between these two teams. Let's take a look back:
Why yes, that is Tarik Black committing three violations on one play: A travel, double dribble, and shot-clock violation. This guy is even efficient when he is tanking.
Wesley Johnson version 98.32 now comes with a "bad Julius Erving impression" function. Update yours in the iTunes Store today.
Looks like Carlos should have asked CP3 to "HOLLLLDAT" rather than embarrassing him. Maybe then the Point Gawd would have showed some mercy. Probably not, but maybe.
As bad as those plays were, it was first time Tank Watch participant Ed Davis who took the cake for worst play of a terrible game with this missed free-throw:
If you listen closely, you can hear THE CLIPPERS broadcast team describing whatever that was as the worst looking foul shot they have seen. The guys who have been watching DeAndre Jordan fulfill his NBA Cares obligations by laying enough free throw line bricks to build entire cities for the less privileged thought that was the worst free throw they have ever seen. Sorry Big Boss, you win tank play of the week this time.
I could sit here and try and come up with a reason that someone other than the actual commander of this tank was the tank commander just for more variety, but Scott just keeps giving us more ammunition. The latest entry in "NOW what did Byron Scott say?" came on Tuesday, when Byron dropped this gem:
"I got a sense of a whole lot of them I wouldn't want to be in a fox hole with," Scott said after Monday's practice. "I think they'd end up shooting me in the back. So I've got a pretty good sense of the guys that I think are going to be around, that we will build around, build together in this process and go through it."
It 's hard to know where to even begin with this quote. This is a coach who has had his ability to connect with players bandied about as one of his credentials essentially throwing his team under the bus (or tank in this case) and backing it up over them for the ump-teenth time this season. Scott has done this so often he has inspired articles entitled "A history of Byron Scott getting angry about the Lakers being bad." He has not even been the coach for an entire season, and that list is about eight entries long.
So for those keeping score at home, including this most recent incidence, Byron Scott has called his players out publicly about once every nine games. If a coach is blaming his players in the media that often, their message clearly is not getting through to the team. Maybe after the seventh time it would have seemed prudent to try a new motivating tactic? I would certainly think so, but I am not Byron Scott.
All of this haranguing his players to reporters, in addition to Scott's:
- Willy-nilly shifting of rotations
- Failure to play his most effective lineups
- Inability or unwillingness to install any semblance of an NBA offense that would be functional in 2015 despite all indications being he is trying to win, and not intentionally tanking
These are certainly troubling factors to consider when looking ahead to the team's future. Yes, this team has been really bad, but everyone knew that was the case going into the season. So why trash these guys the whole year?
So Byron may not want to be in a fox hole with any of these Lakers, and that is fine. The way he keeps digging himself in, it is beginning to look less like a fox hole and more like a grave. The Lakers organization needs to decide if they want to get in with him.
At the top of this column I mentioned the Lakers were winning too much, hence the lengthy hiatus. The biggest reason for those wins was at least due to an actual positive development: the scintillating play of rookie Jordan Clarkson.
Since the last edition of Tank Watch, Clarkson has led the team in scoring (17.7 points per game) and assists (6.2), which would be impressive enough on it's own, but he also knocked down game-clinching free-throws against the Minnesota Timberwolves and hit a game-winning layup against the Philadelphia 76ers.
While these clutch heroics from the rookie almost certainly cost the Lakers a chance at moving up in the draft odds, it is hard to muster up much ire when one of the Lakers' few young players who may be a part of the future drags the team to a win.
And remember, while Clarkson's detonation hurt the Lakers this time, the good news is, this tank mine might be able to be turned against other teams as soon as next year.
The aforementioned strong play from Clarkson had pro-tank fans on a ledge, with a fall to the fifth-best lottery odds looking like a real possibility.
Thankfully, the Magic pulled two wins out of a hat, on back-to-back nights no less! Orlando first used a career-high 37 points from Nikola Vucevic against the undermanned Timberwolves, and then rode potential Lakers' free agency target Tobias Harris' 23 point and 10 rebound performance to victory against the playoff-bound Milwaukee Bucks. These two wins coupled with Orlando's unexpected 105-103 victory over the Bulls left the Magic 5 games behind the Lakers in the lottery standings which would leave Los Angeles with just a 17.2% chance to lose their draft pick to Philadelphia.
Fourth place would still lead to some stress for fans and the front office on lottery night, but not as much as fifth place would have produced. First they let Shaq leave for Los Angeles, then withered in the 2009 Finals, then traded Dwight Howard to the purple and gold (okay so not all the gifts were keepers). These wins can just be added to the gifts the Magic have given the Lakers over the years. Hopefully the draft lottery is not the time that lady luck decides to start sending the offerings the other direction.
Top-five today -
A look at the bottom-five teams, the odds of the Lakers' keeping their pick, and a weekly sim. Courtesy of Tankathon.