The Los Angeles Lakers didn't do so well last season, ending up with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
However, they parlayed that pick into UCLA star point guard Lonzo Ball, and now the team has lofty expectations for the 2017-18 season.
Still, the team is likely to miss the playoffs again this year, even with Ball, as the Western Conference has greatly improved over the course of the summer, with stars like Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and others joining new teams out West.
But, should the Lakers decide to play for the future and tank this season, forward Larry Nance is on the record as telling the Los Angeles Times that he'd rather not play if the team is going to actively try to lose games:
“Hearing all that tanking talk [last year] is like nails on the chalkboard to a competitor," he said. "I don’t even want to play if tanking is on the table. … This season is about improvement and wins. And getting to be the best team and having the best chemistry that we can possibly have and getting everybody to play the best that they can play. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. … I, for one, am ecstatic. I’m eager. I wish the first game was tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, Nance may have to eat his words, as the Lakers' best bet may be having one more down year before becoming big players on the 2018 free agency market. Should Los Angeles get another high draft pick and also have cap room to sign free agents like Paul George and LeBron James, it could instantly change the franchise's fortunes.
Fortunately for Nance, new team president Magic Johnson is a fan of his, so he's unlikely to be traded, as Nance said he's felt the love from the organization in recent months:
“That’s not just somebody on ESPN saying that,” Nance said. “That’s Magic Johnson. That’s one of the greatest point guards, greatest players of all time. To hear a compliment like that coming from a guy like him, it was really cool. Makes you feel wanted and really confident in what you’re doing.
“The more and more pieces come together. Uncertainty went away and nervousness went away and excitement crept in. Now we’re full blown excited. I really love the way things are shaping up.”
With Ball on board as the point guard, it will certainly be interesting to see how the Lakers fare this year. If he can lob a few passes a game to a soaring Nance, the Lakers should be much better than they were last year.