The hilarious Lakers finally got a win last night, a 107-92 clobbering of the Hornets in Los Angeles. Turns out, all it took to get the Lakers off the hook was nearly an entire week off to prepare to host one of the most dysfunctional offensive teams in basketball. Should be a pretty repeatable formula!
Basketball-wise, there's nothing all that illuminating about this. The Hornets won the first half pretty solidly, then did the thing young teams with big leads do on the road where they go to sleep at halftime. The Lakers won the third quarter by 21 points, and the Hornets are too scatterbrained and shooting-deficient to be the kind of team that comes back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter 2,500 miles from home.
The challenge after a game like this is knowing how to feel about it. For Lakers fans, the relief of finally seeing their team dispel the heretofore frighteningly plausible-seeming scenario of the first 0-82 season in NBA history is tempered, somewhat, by the knowledge that every Lakers win brings a greater risk that the team will lose its top-5 protected 2015 draft pick, and with it all hope for a near-future turnaround. For people like me, who've enjoyed the bonkers basketball the Lakers have been playing on purpose, a game like last night's is kind of a bummer, superficially, in that it's less fun to watch these terrible Lakers play vaguely not-stupid basketball and win than to watch them play spectacularly wrongheaded basketball and lose.
That's a shot chart of the third quarter, the one the Lakers won by three touchdowns. Perhaps not coincidentally, that's also the quarter in which they played the least-dumbfuck basketball they've played all season. They shot threes and took high-percentage shots and did good basketball stuff. This might strike Lakers fans as perversely discouraging, since Byron Scott spent the previous month telling anyone who'd listen that, actually, good basketball stuff sucks, and it's never all that great when your team has to win despite the person in charge of it. "Our team won, thus certifying the coach's lunacy!" isn't the sort of thing you brag about in comment sections, you know?
For the rest of us, though, the win is no more encouraging. What if, oh God—what if the Lakers learn from this? What if last night's relatively balanced shot distribution—Kobe took 20; three other guys (Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill) took at least 11—becomes the norm? What if they moderate their stupid three-pointer-avoidance strategy into something within the spectrum of normal, not-ridiculous 21st-century basketball? What if they become just another shitty team, rather than the basketball equivalent of a short-order cook who insists on cooking toast with his breath?
The concern here is not that the Lakers might succeed at winning lots of basketball games—they won't, and anyway who cares—but that something special and remarkable will have gone out of the world if they move off of their "let's do the dumbest shit on purpose" stance. Plenty of teams will lose lots of games this season. The Lakers, God bless them—their stoneheaded coach and his old-man-yells-at-cloud strategy, their grim-faced Ahab of a shooting guard, and Carlos Boozer, just the gloriously doomed fact of Carlos Boozer—man, they were losing with gusto. They were losing with spirit.
Then again, man, it will be really, really funny if they piss their draft pick away to win an extra handful of meaningless games.
They're in Memphis tomorrow night. Go Lakers! Lose or win or whatever.
Photo via Getty