Lakers’ new chant is ‘We’re No. 2!’ ... and it feels like a winner

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, left, is congratulated by Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, right, and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak after the 76ers won the top draft pick during the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, left, is congratulated by Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, right, and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak after the 76ers won the top draft pick during the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday.

(Julie Jacobson / AP)

It was a replay of December’s Miss Universe pageant disguised as an NBA draft lottery ceremony.

The Lakers were initially announced as the first runner-up.

But in reality, they won.

On a nailbiting night when the Philadelphia 76ers were awarded the first pick in the June draft, the Lakers were given something far more valuable, and without the Steve Harvey howl.

By finishing in the top three, they avoided being forced to send their first-round pick to the Sixers. And by finishing second, they are in a perfect position to take the player best suited to be the future cornerstone of Luke Walton’s probable new system.

Let Philly grab the bloated hype of LSU’s Ben Simmons and all of his baggage.

The Lakers can now relax, avoid the pressure of making the glamorous pick, and ride with Duke’s Brandon Ingram.


Simmons is all Hollywood, which would have made him a tempting selection for the Lakers at No. 1. Ingram is all hardwood, which makes him the ideal Laker fit at No. 2.

Ingram is 6 feet 9, skinny as a ball rack, wingspan of a flyover, made 41% of his three-point shots at Duke, led the Blue Devils to the Sweet 16, and has impressed everyone with his poise and maturity. Imagine Jordan Clarkson with length. Imagine D’Angelo Russell without the smartphone.

Simmons probably will be taken first because he is bigger, stronger, and considered a better rebounder and passer. But the Lakers need someone who can shoot, and defend, and eventually lead, and Ingram, who is just 18 and can gain the needed weight, has more potential to be that guy.

Certainly, the Sixers could surprise people and go with Ingram, in which case the Lakers would grab Simmons and worry about his maturity and jump shot later. In any case, the No. 2 pick is the best pick for a Lakers front office in desperate need of a layup.

Of course, last year was, um, a layup. The Minnesota Timberwolves would take Karl-Anthony Towns with the first pick and the Lakers would take Jahlil Okafor with the second pick and . . . oops. The Lakers defied common sense and took Russell, and while it’s too early to label the kid a bust, Towns won rookie of the year, Okafor finished fifth in the voting, and Russell finished ninth.

These memories account for the quiet underlying fear being murmured today by Lakers fans everywhere. Yeah, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak could still mess this up.

They could trade the pick for a veteran in hopes of making a bigger immediate cleanup for fans weary of spending three years sitting alongside smoldering wreckage. But that would be silly because, with Kobe Bryant’s retirement and other extinguished assets, they have $55 million in cap space for those veterans. Why use such a valuable draft pick for another one?

They could also dip lower into the draft pool and elevate someone beyond all conventional wisdom because they think they are smarter than everyone else. This is what they thought last year, and it didn’t work, so just stop it.

They need to keep the pick, they need to hope it’s Ingram, and then they need to swear to Lakers fans that they will stop making news in May for something other than playing basketball.

This has been ridiculous, right? Despite its happy ending, Tuesday night was essentially a third consecutive Lakers nightmare. Watching a Lakers official sweating all over the TV screen again. Holding your breath over a bunch of ping-pong balls again. Enduring the sight of the Lakers logo at the end of a long list of losing logos again.

Enough is enough. It’s beneath the organization and its championship culture. It’s almost embarrassing for Lakers fans to feel a need to even celebrate it.

But, then again, after the worst season in Lakers history, those fans do deserve something to cheer about, and this qualifies.

This almost makes the 65 losses a tad more bearable, This almost makes the angst over the high cost of the Bryant farewell tour a bit more muted. And, hey, this definitely marks the official end of the sorry Lakers legacy of the disappearing Steve Nash, whose acquisition nearly cost them that top-three pick.

The Lakers haven’t had many wins lately, so maybe folks don’t recognize it, but this is one. It’s a done deal. It’s in the bag. They’re No. 2, but it feels like No. 1, and they can’t blow it now.

Can they?

Twitter: @billplaschke


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