The Los Angeles Lakers have been busy adding NBA Draft lottery talents to their core for the past four seasons, but with their pick belonging to either the Philadelphia 76ers or Boston Celtics, there’s no incentive for the team to tank this time around. No longer are wins lamented and losses equivalent to a bitter sweet march to the ping pong balls.
Larry Nance Jr. has endured two of such seasons, joining the team alongside D’Angelo Russell back in 2016. Now, not only are the Lakers not tanking, but he’s found himself in the starting lineup. Things are looking up all around Nance, and he’s excited about progressing through an 82-game season without the weight of lottery odds on the team’s shoulders.
Nance spoke with media following the Lakers’ win over the Detroit Pistons, appreciating a well-earned victory. There was no question as to whether the Lakers should have competed to their fullest for 48 minutes with tanking off the table, and Nance was open about how much of a relief that is, via Shahan Ahmed of NBC Los Angeles:
“It’s weird. You know what I mean?” Nance says, as he begins to explain what he, in fact, means. “Because as competitors, you try to win, you want to win every single time on the court, but meanwhile, in the back of your mind, every time you’re off the court, every time you see on Twitter, every time we won, people are like, ‘What are you doing! You’re messing up our…we need Lonzo (Ball)!’ And it’s like ‘What? This is so reversed from what it’s supposed to be.’ It just makes it really hard to kind of focus on the task at hand when that’s hanging above you.”
The Lakers’ goal isn’t to tank to the bottom to draft an elite prospect this season, but prove they’re a legitimate team on the rise to potential superstar free agents next summer. It’s a different vibe, and one that is seemingly helping players who’ve been bogged down by the tanking talk hone in on their progress through the season.
How many more wins that amounts to for the Lakers remains to be seen, but we’re starting to see positive signs in how they’re playing the game together as a unit. Hopefully this is only the start of what’s to come.
Nance had a few more interesting tidbits to say about how he felt being at the center of Tankapalooza over the past two seasons, so be sure to give Ahmed’s full column a read.