Was the Lakers Win Over the Kings a Mistake?

A few days after the Lakers’ recent lineup changes designed to add some semblance of defense to the worst defending team in the NBA, former Lakers’ star and former part-owner Magic Johnson has now chimed in on the “tank” side of franchise-building, saying that the team needs to lose, lose, and lose some more, enhancing its chances of re-building with top lottery picks. Well, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the team did not take too well to the comments, and they went out last night and defeated a Sacramento Kings’ team missing its best player, DeMarcus Cousins, by an overpowering three points. Despite Coach Byron’s Scott ill-conceived move of inserting Ronnie Price into the starting lineup but powered by a hot Kobe when points were a must, the Lakers pulled out that close win that likely has Magic shaking his head.

Kobe hit for 32 points last night, nine of which were in the final three-plus minutes, including hitting two of two from the line in the final seconds to secure the win. This despite yet another miserable game from points guards Price and Jeremy Lin, while rookie hopeful Jordan Clarkson sits on the bench. As I wrote yesterday, there is likely no less talented player in the NBA than Scott's choice to run the LA offense, and Price produced a typical stat line that accurately
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reflects his meager talent: two points on one-of-five shooing over 20 minutes of playing time, and in a game the team won by three, the Lakers were outscored by 13 while he was on the court. New backup Lin fared not much better, scoring three on a similar one-of-five, but the Lakers outscored the Kings by nine while he was in the game. The two guards did little to slow the up the outstanding performance of Kings’ guard Darren Collison, who led his team with 26 on 11-of-18 shooting.

Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson sits and waits, and it was Bryant who ran the offense as the point guard in the late fourth quarter.

How better to work for the team’s future than letting Clarkson get that playing time now being given to Price, who is doing absolutely NOTHING to either help the Lakers win now

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or help them build towards a winning future. Whether getting Clarkson playing time works towards Johnson's strategy or not, it cannot hurt the team - ANYTHING is an improvement over Price - and the organization will be able to see whether they have a long range solution at point guard or whether that spot is still one of the team's key rebuilding needs.

Reflecting on Johnson’s comments, Scott reacted before the game last night, saying “We’ve got to try to go out there and win every game possible.”. However, starting and relying on Price belies that philosophy. Clarkson may not play any better than Price, but even then the team would benefit by knowing what they have or do not have in the rookie point guard.

Scott’s other move, benching Carlos Boozer in favor of Ed Davis, has angered Boozer much more than Lin, who appeared more accepting of the move and more willing to work harder and better to earn back more playing time, and in his mind, that starting spot. Interestingly enough in last night’s game, unlike in Sunday’s when the moves were first made, both Lin and Boozer had more minutes than the new starters Price and Davis.

The Lakers won last night despite hitting only 39.6% of their shots and a horrendous 20% - five-of-25 - on three-point attempts. So how did they win? First and foremost, the Kings were without Cousins, but they also missed 13 free throws, and the Lakers committed only five turnovers, compared to the 16 Kings' turnovers.
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Plus, the Lakers had more success on the offensive boards, scoring more second-chance points than Sacramento. All this added up to the Lakers’ win.

Finally, with all of the losing and the discord now present in many media accounts, is that having an effect on the team’s fan base? Maybe it has, as last night’s game was the first non-sellout of the Lakers’ 2014-2015 season.

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