The NBA’s 2016-17 campaign is coming to a close and the Los Angeles Lakers are ending the season in a very similar fashion to how they started it, a startling surprise. After a season of growing pains, the team looks to be playing together to close out their year.
As winners of five straight, they have played like a team with something to gain from beating their opponents rather than dodging victory at every available opportunity. It’s been building good habits with the younger players on the roster after two seasons of turmoil.
Near the beginning of the season, Luke Walton had the inexperienced group playing hard as a general surprise after not knowing what to expect following Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour. After a couple weeks of the season, they were near .500 in wins.
Of course, the wheels fell off and the Lakeshow will be at the lottery for the third straight season, a ghastly number for a franchise as dedicated to winning championships as the Lakers are. Hopefully, the next great superstar will be coming in the draft.
But, on Tuesday night, all eyes were on Metta World Peace as he took the court for what looks like his final game at the Staples Center. He scored 18 points in 20 minutes of action as the home team won 108-96 against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.
The scene was moderately reminiscent of Bryant’s farewell last year, but World Peace didn’t come close to dropping the 60 points that the Black Mamba had in his curtain call.
Still the Lakers faithful rose to their feet near the end of the game to salute a man who helped them claim a championship in 2010.
Winning five games in a row does not help their draft odds. In fact, the argument can be made that L.A. should have lost every single game for the past two weeks to insure that they had the best possible chance to keep their pick instead of competing.
If the pick falls to four or lower, it belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal that existed from a prior trade. Tuesday night was not the time to worry about that though, it was time to celebrate one of the more colorful players to wear the purple and gold for the past decade.
Ping pong balls determine the fates of many teams in the early summer and spring, but sometimes the past can be just as important.