It was a classic case of good news and bad news for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday when they received a big payout and suffered an embarrassing loss on the same day.
Adding insult to income, the Lakers dropped a 129-115 decision to the lowly San Antonio Spurs while also receiving the prize money they earned for winning the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.
“Since the tournament wrapped, L.A. is just 1-3,” wrote Dave McMenamin. “The Lakers went 1-2 on a trip through Dallas and San Antonio before Monday night’s matchup with the [New York] Knicks. While Friday’s defeat at the Spurs that snapped an 18-game losing streak for San Antonio was a letdown, it came with a silver lining: That was the same day each L.A. player’s $500,000 in tournament winnings was deposited as a lump-sum payment in their accounts, sources told ESPN.”
The Spurs winning for the first time since early November — just their fourth victory of the season — continued a post-tournament hangover for the Lakers since clinching the NBA Cup on Dec. 9.
Perhaps more so than any other team in the league, Los Angeles was completely invested in the first In-Season Tournament. The Lakers went undefeated in the group stage before defeating the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers in Las Vegas to secure the title.
LeBron James seemed particularly motivated to add the unique accomplishment to his NBA legacy, and the 38-year-old received another when he was named the first tournament MVP. In addition, the victory provided a lucrative financial incentive to some of the lesser-known players further down the Lakers roster.
It also allowed the team to celebrate by hanging a banner at Crypto.com Arena, though head coach Darvin Ham had to respond to the criticism they have received for deciding to do so. They also went out and lost to the Knicks after the pregame ceremony.
But the six victories earned during the tournament that count in the regular season standings should not be discounted. The Lakers are just 9-12 in non-tournament games this season, sporting a 15-12 overall record that has them in eighth place in the Western Conference heading into their game at the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
If the Lakers can upgrade their roster while also recapturing the motivation they had while winning the In-Season Tournament, they could put themselves in position to gain a much bigger prize and raise a much more significant banner in the very near future.