Putting the words "Los Angeles Lakers" and "tanking" in the same sentence is an odd thing. The Lakers are not a team that finds themselves competing for ping pong balls or near the bottom of the standings.
With Dwight Howard leaving in free agency and Kobe Bryant down for who knows how long with his ruptured Achilles, some people dared to use the "t" word next to the Lakers and sully their good name — with all those mystical banners hanging at Staples Center.
Championships are what the Lakers do, not losing. And that is what Mitch Kupchak told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. The Lakers ARE NOT tanking — even if it means getting Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or the player that will actually take the torch from Kobe Bryant since Dwight Howard won't.
That's never a plan here with our fan base, to throw in the towel before the season begins. We always try to win, and that's what we're going to do this year. We have challenges. There's no doubt. We don't know when Kobe's coming back, and we don't know what level he's going to come back at, although we're optimistic. Everything's good with Steve [Nash]. Pau [Gasol] should be fine. We've added some athleticism. We're hopefully putting ourselves in position where we can compete in every game.
No team would come out and say they are trying to lose games. That is sure way to sour your fan base, particularly one so used to winning. The Lakers have missed the Playoffs only twice since 1977, winning 10 championships in that span.
But this season could be something different for the Lakers.
Bryant's future for the season is uncertain with the Achilles injury. He could be back in the preseason (the optimsit) or it could be something that dogs him for the rest of his career and prevents him from being Kobe (the pessimist). Pau Gasol can put those trade rumors to rest, but he was never that successful as a first option and remains the team's most movable trade piece. Steve Nash struggled through injuries all of last season and is only getting older.
The free agent additions of Jordan Farmar, Chris Kaman, Nick Young and Carl Landry make the team only marginally better (if that) from the team that finished seventh in the West last season with Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol filling out the core.
A championship team the Lakers are not right now. And it is going to take some reloading to get the team back to a title-winning level. The Draft Lottery might actually help this team if the organization were willing to go through the pains of reloading (and pull a Spurs with David Robinson to position themselves for Tim Duncan).
The Lakers will find a way to reload — they always do — but just sneaking into the Playoffs appears to be their destiny for this season. That should only mean the next title is farther away.