By: Jonathan Eskin
Millions of Californians love the adrenaline rush of their state lottery, hoping for a better life. Nevadans cross state lines to strike rich, attempting to fix misfortunes. Popular games Powerball, MEGA Millions, Fantasy 5, SuperLotto Plus, are the backbone of the California State Lottery, as folks spend a pretty penny for a change of fate.
Fate. For the Los Angeles Lakers, the purple and gold seem to be an early entry for the sweepstakes, this season. Searching for a change in fate. Although, their lottery probably begins May 14 in Chicago, free of charge and so is the rush.
The team, dropping to 11th in the Western Conference standings, with a disappointing 31-38 overall record, have 12 games remaining on the regular season schedule.
Compete or tank?
That’s the million-dollar question swirling the league.
If they compete, the odds of a Top 4 pick sit at just 9.4 percent, in the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery.
If they tank, and the Lakers fall to the seventh or eighth spot in the lottery, odds increase to a 32 percent chance of a Top 4 selection.
A staggering 22.6 percent swing, which is huge and worth considering.
Placing them in the hunt for Duke phenom, Zion Williamson and other prospects. Perhaps, reconciling the season.
The 16-time champions need this ping-pong ball. At 18 games back, Lakers have a 3 percent stake of the No. 1 pick, so top 4 is vital.
New Orleans, Washington, Memphis, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Phoenix and New York are now contestants, too. The 13-56 New York Knicks have the best chance of landing the No. 1 pick.
How will the winds of Chicago blow the ping-pong balls? North, East, South, or … West?!
LeBron “King” James
LBJ headed West in the off-season, not so much for a better life, but for an eventual run at the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Inking a four-year, $154 million contract, sending shockwaves through the NBA, once again.
He knew this would be a rebuilding year. He didn’t know this would likely be the first time in his illustrious career, he wouldn’t make the playoffs, since his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
King James didn’t realize this would be the most injury plagued team with 15 years in the association. Nor, did James expect to strain his left groin on Christmas Day versus the Golden State Warriors, keeping him out of action for 17 consecutive games.
A devastating injury that completely derailed the Lakers’ momentum. Lakers were fourth in the wild Western Conference, boasting a 21-14 record. In his absence, the team struggled to break even, at 6-11, trying to find offense and clutch shooting.
Photo: Tony Avelar/Associated Press
The AD dilemma – raises brows
As the trade deadline approached, the Lakers did everything in their power reasonably to make a deal for superstar power forward and center, Anthony “The Brow” Davis, of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Short of New Orleans asking to ship half the team, Staples Center and the Los Angeles Rams, the bill never passed. Lakers may make another attempt this summer for the big man.
Despite the outcome, notable potential unrestricted free agents include former championship teammate, Kryie Irving of the Celtics, Warrior’s Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins.
Raptor’s Kawhi Leonard will make his return to the news. Teammate Marc Gasol, 76er’s Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Hornets’ Kemba Walker and Bucks’ Khris Middleton round out the list.
If the casual fan thought LeBron’s injury was the root cause of a lost season, they’d be sorely mistaken. The totality of injuries decimated the team during the regular season. When one healed, another went down.
Lonzo Ball’s badly twisted ankle (out for the season), Brandon Ingram’s frightening blot clot in his shoulder (out for the season), Rajon Rondo’s finger surgery, Josh Hart’s bad knee.
As well, Kyle Kuzma’s ankle, Lance Stephenson’s toe, and Tyson Chandler’s neck, at the same time monitoring LeBron’s pace of play, have made basketball decisions brutal for head coach Luke Walton.
The Lakers’ front office will to need to reevaluate nearly everything. President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, and General Manager, Rob Pelinka are sure to have a busy summer, finding solutions to a season that started so promising.
Will they try and punch an early lottery ticket to the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery? Go into tank mode, as the phrase goes. That’s never been the philosophy in Lakerland.
But, odds are odds and numbers don’t lie.
Like “Ball don’t lie,” as former Pistons’ champion, Rasheed Wallace, once put it.
If ball don’t lie, then the Lakers need to go for the ping-pong, but almost nothing is certain in the NBA Draft Lottery.
One thing that is certain now. 32 percent odds for that cherished golden ticket. A good bet for a top 4 pick.
How will the purple and gold roll? A dozen games left will tell the tale of season to forget.
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