BY MIKE BRESNAHAN FOR THE LA TIMES
Soon enough, the Lakers will be free to do whatever they want.
Hit the beach. Vacation in Europe. Head to their hometowns.
Between now and April 15, Coach Byron Scott can only hope to keep a lid on a quickly dissolving season, the latest setback a 107-99 Lakers loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.
It was dull, it was bland and it ended the way so many games had this season.
Sensing the need for a pick-me-up, Scott tried his best to incentivize the players, many of them holding expiring contracts.
“I understand that this late in the season, guys get to the point where they’re frustrated and minds start to wander and you start thinking about the summer and all that stuff,” he said. “But we’re in a situation right now where the guys that we have, they still have to look up at the future. Everybody’s getting evaluated. To me, these last 10 games are the most important.”
The Lakers’ loss wasn’t a big deal to their fans-turned-lottery-enthusiasts. In fact, it set up the biggest game so far in this upside-down season.
The Lakers (19-53) play at Philadelphia on Monday, the 76ers (18-56) right below them in the standings. A Lakers loss would set up quite the battle of ineptitude over the final two weeks.
The Lakers have a 10.5% chance of winning the No. 1 pick at the May 19 lottery, and the 76ers, keepers of the NBA’s third-worst record, hold a 15.6% chance.
Equally important, if the Lakers managed to fall below the 76ers and finish with the NBA’s third-worst record, they would forfeit their draft pick only if three teams passed them on lottery night. There’s a mere 4% chance of that happening. If the Lakers stay where they are now, there’s a 16% chance of getting passed by two teams on lottery night.
The Lakers traded this year’s first-round pick as part of the Steve Nash deal in 2012, but it is top-five protected.
As for Sunday’s game, Jordan Clarkson came relatively close to another triple-double — 18 points, seven assists and six rebounds — but the Lakers couldn’t stop Brook Lopez, who had 30 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets.
Jeremy Lin sat out because of an upper-respiratory infection, which was unfortunate for spectators who came to Barclays Center for the Nets’ “Celebration of Chinese Culture” day.
Jordan Hill had 22 points and 16 rebounds after returning from a three-game absence so the Lakers could, allegedly, evaluate younger players. But a young and healthy Ed Davis did not play Sunday, and neither did Carlos Boozer, yet again.
The Lakers are as bad as the worst team in franchise history, the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers, who had a 19-53 record. They played only 72 games then, meaning these Lakers must win three of their final 10 to avoid finishing with a worse winning percentage.
With the off-season so close, the Lakers are walking quickly toward history’s embrace.