Andrew Mulligan: Good season for Lakers to lose

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A win in long-winded Bryant farewell.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant dribbles during the second half of the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz. Photo / AP
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant dribbles during the second half of the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz. Photo / AP

Thank goodness that's over. What an ugly, drawn out process Kobe Bryant's last season for the Los Angeles Lakers was, given how badly they performed in the past 82 games.

Winning just 20 per cent of their games, they were the worst offensive team in a league. The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs on the other hand, have taken scoring and sharing to a new level. They have perfected it to a point where we have to ask - are the Warriors an outlier of a team in terms of execution and scoring or are they the future of what it will be like in years to come?

What we had yesterday was the final chapter of a star's career that had the opportunity to see out his days on his terms, whether that suited the team's future goals or not.

Given that Bryant had the lead role in five of 16 NBA championships in one of sport's most famous franchises meant this could be afforded. They're only a quarter of way through a 20-year US$4 billion ($5.8 billion) broadcast deal with Time Warner that banks on producing the success that Bryant brought them.

So they gave their most recent favourite son - a guy who helicopters to downtown LA to the Staples Center because of congestion from his house - a farewell tour while blatantly tanking to improve their draft lottery chances.

If you get a high pick you get class, well most of the time. Anthony Bennett anyone?

For the Lakers this has been a good season to lose. You farewell a legend under the guise of dragging a mix of young players and trusty veterans around the league, garnering accolades and having Bryant gift signed shoes to opposing players all the while the losses keep stacking up. And those losses matter.

The NBA is a funny league. Unlike the NFL draft, where the team with the worst record gets the first choice of college players, the NBA has a draft lottery for the 14 teams that failed to make the playoffs. The lottery sees more balls in the mix for more losses. Hence the tanking. It can be frustrating if it's your team and it has a mixed result for teams but like any business futures and cheap assets are desirable.

This year with Bryant contributing to his career stats with some horrific numbers, the Lakers lost a lot.

They now have the second most balls in the draft lottery and that's very important because any position outside of the top three of the draft lottery, a potential young star will go to the Philadelphia 76ers.

They tank games just as egregiously and recently fired their general manager who had been doing it for the past few seasons and replaced him with a savvy father and son combo who can turn an organisation around.

One final point. Bryant's contract is massive. Those numbers come off the books and there are many who'd love to play for a such a storied franchise.

As for Bryant, he tried but this season his 20-year career for the Lakers is finally over and now they can focus on the future.

- NZ Herald

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