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Playing lottery is real gamble for the Lakers

They can finish with the NBA's fourth-worst overall record and still have a crack at the top spot.

February 28, 2014|By Mike Bresnahan

The Lakers and Sacramento Kings played each other Friday at Staples Center. No better time to ponder lottery percentages.

The Lakers have the worst record in the Western Conference, the Kings are the West's second-worst, and they'll both be in attendance May 20 when the draft order is officially determined.

The Lakers (20-39) are tied with Boston for the NBA's fourth-worst record, giving them an 11.9% chance of winning the top pick.

Milwaukee (11-46) is the runaway favorite to grab the league's worst record, but the Bucks have only a 25% chance of winning the top pick in the June 26 draft.

Philadelphia (15-43) currently has the NBA's second-worst record, good for a 19.9% shot at the top pick, followed by Orlando (18-42) with a 15.6% chance at No. 1.

The Lakers couldn't be less comfortable discussing their season of misery, which was eased somewhat Friday with their 126-122 victory over the Kings. They're still well within reach of their worst winning percentage since moving to Los Angeles in 1960, a distinction held right now by the 1974-75 Lakers, who staggered to a 30-52 record.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged last week the Lakers were "not having a good year," about as in-depth an analysis you'll get from an obviously embarrassed franchise.

But stick around Lakers employees long enough and you'll hear the sad tale of Memphis, which finished with the league's worst record in 2007 and didn't get the first, second or third pick in the draft that season. Three teams passed them in the lottery draw — Portland, Seattle and Atlanta.

The Trail Blazers took Greg Oden (oops) and Seattle took Kevin Durant. Sorry, Memphis.

Maybe that's actually good news for the Lakers, who are bad but not Milwaukee bad. Or Philadelphia bad. Or Orlando bad (as of now).

They can finish with the NBA's fourth-worst overall record and still have a crack at the top spot.

The top four college players are routinely believed to be Kansas center Joel Embiid, Duke small forward Jabari Parker, Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins and Kentucky power forward Julius Randle.

Australian point guard Dante Exum is a wild card who might also eventually be sprinkled among those players. He doesn't play in the NCAA but is eligible for this year's draft.

Bad Shaq

Why couldn't the Lakers win more than three championships with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant?

Phil Jackson might have some ideas.

The former Lakers coach presided over one of the best runs in franchise history but also one with a surprisingly short life span.

One reason could have been O'Neal's lack of work ethic.

"Shaq didn't work at it," Jackson said Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, according to USA Today Sports.

"Michael [Jordan] was able to succeed despite all kinds of limitations in his game. He couldn't hit an outside shot. He couldn't defend. But all of that went away because of his work ethic. Kobe saw that as a pinnacle that he had to reach, and he took it to a whole new level."

O'Neal and Bryant managed to put their differences behind them to win consecutive titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002, but O'Neal was traded in July 2004 after the Lakers were thumped in five games by Detroit in the NBA Finals.

"Shaq had a clown role he had to play," Jackson said. "So that was part of the rift."

Bryant, of course, is deathly serious when it comes to basketball.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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