Heisler: Lakers need to tank so keep on firing, Kobe!

first_imgNot that Bryant’s lower-than-anyone-imagined 30.5 percent shooting is hurting the Lakers, whose season is already lost and needs to stay that way.Yes, once again it’s time to tank!If this is getting to be an annual column, I used to believe that losing is toxic, prompting management, fans, coaches and players to turn on each other.The Lakers are a different case, having fallen into a black hole after trading their 2015 No. 1 pick in the 2012 deal for Steve Nash, unless it was in the top five, in which case they would lose it in 2016 unless it’s in the top three.They tanked last season, finishing fourth-worst at 21-61, then lucking into the No. 2 pick. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Or maybe they were so bad, they didn’t have to tank.The question now isn’t whether to tank but what’s the alternative, winning 30 (that’s for you optimists) and not having a No. 1 pick?The coming draft isn’t close to the last one with one star – LSU’S Ben Simmons – and a host of raw prospects like Duke’s Brandon Ingram and Kentucky’s Skai Labississiere, twiggy freshmen averaging 12 and 10, respectively.In comparison, D’Angelo Russell was Oscar Robertson, averaging 19 with 10 assists as an Ohio State freshmanNevertheless, with dwindling hopes of landing Kevin Durant or any big free agent, the Lakers need another young prospect, even one they have to wait for, the way they need oxygen.Happily for the Lakers, they might not have to tank … again!They’re second-worst (guess who’s worst?), 1 1/2 games behind third-worst New Orleans, two behind fourth-worst Brooklyn.Better yet, neither the Nets or the Pelicans are likely to fight to get below them.The Pelicans are 5-15 after starting 1-11 because of injuries. With a young team that made the playoffs last season, they should move up enough to stay out of the Lakers’ way.The Nets have no incentive to tank with their No. 1 pick going to Boston in the trade for Paul Pierce which GM Billy King made with no lottery protection.On the other hand, this won’t be as easy as last season.Climbing one place could be disastrous. At third-worst, the Lakers would have a 49.5% chance of falling out of the top three.This is a test of their management. After years of hoping for a fast turnaround, it must be tough-minded enough to realize that they aren’t the Lakers now and aren’t likely to be next season.In the meantime, it’s fun in a grisly way. Kobe played every game on the East Coast trip, his last at every stop, sensed the fans wanted him to keep firing, took 69 shots and, of course, missed 48.He was even a semblance of the old Kobe once, scoring 31 as the Lakers stunned the Wizards.The end of games with fans cheering and peers embracing him were heartwarming.The rest was an affront to the game he expressed his devotion to when he announcedhis retirement, on the Lakers’ TV network as elsewhere.James Worthy as Kobe shot 4 for 20 in last week’s home loss to Indiana:“When I did my interview with Kobe a few weeks back, he said he’s going to play until the wheels fall off. And they’re falling off right now.”Stu Lantz, that night:“The Lakers have 12 more minutes in which they can try to do something about a couple of things, their offense and their defense. Other than that, they’re right there.”Worthy on Kobe’s lone assist in the first half in Philadelphia:“I hope we see more of that. … You know, involve the younger players.”Stu, after Kobe shot a technical foul: “Closest he’s been to the basket since the game started.”Bill MacDonald: “Thank you.”The young players are taking a back seat. Jordan Clarkson might be the Andrew Wiggins of the young guards but who knows it? Kobe takes 18 shots a game, leaving 13 for JC and 11 for Russell and Julius Randle.Notes ESPN’s Chauncey Billups of the young Lakers: “This is kind of a redshirt year.”It’s actually a redshirt for the entire franchise, or it had better be.Mark Heisler has written an NBA column since 1991 and was honored with the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award in 2006. His column is published Sundays in Los Angeles News Group print editions.center_img Welcome to the 2015-16 Laker season, now a lovefest … everywhere but Lakerdom.There were dueling perspectives last week as Kobe Bryant soaked up the love on his farewell tour through Philadelphia, Washington and Atlanta.Fans around the NBA: You mean this is his last season?Laker fans: You mean he’s staying all season? last_img