- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers have lost eight of their last nine games, including six in a row as they limp toward the finish line of their forgettable 2013-14 campaign.
And there's a group of Lakers fans hoping that losing streak extends to nine straight with three games remaining in the regular season in order to boost the team's draft standing.
However, Lakers guard Nick Young said there is no motivation for him and his teammates to purposely fold in the final days.
"I know some teams believe they should tank," Young said. "I know a lot of teams out there are probably doing it, because they believe this draft is going to be one of the biggest drafts that's happened in a long time.
"But for me, I haven't really paid attention to it. I think we're not going out there just to lose for the draft because I think we still want to be in the league. These guys are coming in to take our spots, so, I'm not about to give up for somebody else to come in and take my spot."
There's no guarantee that Young or the rest of those guys will be back with the Lakers next season, so why should they care if L.A. ends up picking No. 5 versus No. 6 in the lottery?
With 11 of the Lakers' 15 players on their roster set to become free agents (a number that will rise to 12 if Young opts out of his $1.2 million deal for next season), Young says survival instincts are kicking in.
The problem is, the frustration of a season that's seen more than twice as many losses (54) as wins (25) is clearly weighing on these Lakers as they finish off the worst year in franchise history.
The Lakers held their last home practice of the season on Saturday and were together for only about 30 minutes before they were set free for the day by coach Mike D'Antoni. They will likely only have nine healthy players again Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, as Pau Gasol (vertigo) and Steve Nash (hamstring) did not practice and Chris Kaman (right calf strain) only participated in limited basketball activities. They are all considered doubtful to play in the last home game of the season.
Not that there's much left for D'Antoni to say. Jodie Meeks said the coach addressed the team on Friday after the Lakers' 112-95 loss to the Golden State Warriors to impart a final message as the season winds down.
"He was just saying, 'Finish it out,' " Meeks said. "He was behind us. He knows that it's been a tough year for him, our organization and everybody that's affiliated with the Lakers, because nobody is used to losing this much. He was just saying it's not fair the hand that we've been dealt some of the time, but he's with us, he's behind us and he still has confidence in us."
Meeks, in turn, expressed confidence in the much-maligned coach.
"Mike's been great," Meeks said. "He's been the same tone every game. We come in for practice and he's very encouraging and I love playing for him. I know everybody else does too. Especially the young guys, because most of us haven't played this many minutes in our career. So, he's given us the opportunity to expand our games, especially with all the injuries and he's helped us out a lot."
D'Antoni left the practice facility without speaking to the media on Saturday. Young said that everyone on the Lakers could benefit from a bit of an escape.
"I think we all need to get away, or get a vacation," said Young, who admitted he is still dealing with pain in his left knee and right ankle, but will just need rest to heal up rather than any offseason procedure. "You got to look at the good moments that happened this year. You can't go into the summer depressed and worried."
Meeks, who leads the Lakers in minutes played by a long shot with 2,452 (Wesley Johnson, who is second, has only played 2,127), also sounds ready to kick his feet up.
"First off, get some rest," Meeks said. "It's been a long season. I've played a lot of minutes."
Even with all the injuries and all the losses, Young isn't ready to say goodbye to the season just yet.
"It's kind of sad to see this season be over. We had some good times," Young said. "I believe, myself, just being a part of the Lakers is one of the best experiences I've had."
Young intends to see that experience through by veering the tank away from Staples Center on Sunday.
"I would love to see a victory," Young said. "It will be fun to go out there, the last game at home, go out there and put up a show."
5hEthan Sherwood Strauss
4hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
2hVince Masi, ESPN Stats & Information