On a night when the Lakers’ performance only outperformed League Pass, the Purple and Gold were blown out by the San Antonio Spurs. Despite a spirited comeback in the second quarter to keep things under control for just a little while longer, the Lakers were unable to keep up with San Antonio, eventually taking a 134-94 loss.
Because the game was a complete dominance by the Spurs (and because League Pass showed less effort than Lou Williams in transition defense), there’s not much to discuss about the match itself. All you need to know is that Ivica Zubac got playing time and was predictably a superstar. #NBAVote
— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) January 13, 2017
Instead of our usual recap format, I decided to turn this one into a mailbag to answer any and all questions about the Lakers and whatever else was asked.
Help? Looking for Defense and effective communication 😫
— YK Lee (@YKLee13) January 13, 2017
Well I don’t have to tell anyone that the defense stinks and was especially awful on Thursday. You’re not going to win many games letting the opponent shoot over 60%.
As for communication as a whole, I have noticed one thing that’s given me a lot of hope recently. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle have been the best players on this team this season and I don’t it’s a stretch to say so. They’ve also been especially potent while playing with each other; their two-man game has been highly efficient and successful.
What has been the most encouraging part about this is that they are also not afraid to get on each other about mistakes. At the end of the first half, Russell had a terrible stretch in which he turned the ball over and fouled Kawhi Leonard shooting a heave from mid-court. As Leonard was shooting his free throws, the cameras caught Randle assertively speaking to Russell with the latter seemingly being attentive.
It’s a really good sign that the Lakers’ two best players can criticize each other and be responsive to that criticism. At the peak of the Kobe-Pau era, that was an important dynamic to the team.
@HoniAhm Will Zubac be the best center on the squad(Or NBA) by the end of the season?
— Jare D. Goff (@Dezdrew) January 13, 2017
Clueless Drew Hernandez doesn’t think Zubac is already the GOAT.
who will have more rings by the middle of Zubac's career? Bill Russell or Zubac?
— Ivica jr (@chiapet74) January 13, 2017
Very disappointed in Zubac super fan David Chia not knowing that the big man will finish his career with 15 rings and eight Olympic gold medals.
is it time to break out #TeamTank again or do we continue to hope LAL tries to be competitive every night for the growth?
— Andrew (@el_jonesy35) January 13, 2017
Technically, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Anyone advocating for tanking shouldn’t do so in lieu of wanting the Lakers’ current core to continue developing and improving.
As for tanking as a whole, here’s why it may not be a viable option this year. The Lakers currently hold the seventh worst record in the NBA. They are four games behind the Blazers for the eight seed in the West and 4.5 games ahead of the Nets who currently have the worst record.
Depending on what you consider active tanking to be, it doesn’t seem likely that the Lakers get a bottom three record. The Nets are almost guaranteed one of those spots and the Heat are free-falling and without Justise Winslow for the rest of the year. The Mavericks don’t really have a path to getting better; neither do the Suns. The Wolves and Sixers could theoretically leap frog the Lakers as they have been playing better.
But even then, LA would end up with the fifth worst record and a 29.1% chance of landing a top-three pick and keeping it. That’s not a tiny number (they currently hold 15% odds as the seventh worst record) but it doesn’t exactly instill confidence.
The path to tanking would probably involve trading Nick Young and Lou Williams, the two veterans on tradable contracts who have also had big impacts on the team. But do we thing trading them does anything other than marginally make the team worse? The young guys are too good to truly tank this season so I wouldn’t bank on it.