By Greg Beacham
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LOS ANGELES _ The Los Angeles Lakers wrapped up the worst season in franchise history with an eight-man roster of castoffs and journeymen trudging to their eighth loss in nine games, never threatening to contend under all those gold championship banners hanging high above the Staples Center court.
And, the Sacramento Kings thought they had a rough year.
Ben McLemore scored 24 points, Derrick Williams added 22 and the Kings sent the Lakers to their nadir with a 122-99 victory Wednesday night in both clubs’ season finale.
Jabari Brown scored 32 points for the Lakers, whose 21-61 final record is the 16-time NBA champion franchise’s worst by both losses and winning percentage. From the preseason to the last unsightly rite of spring, coach Byron Scott’s first team couldn’t even meet arguably the lowest preseason expectations in this proud basketball institution’s history.
“It obviously doesn’t sit well with me,” said Scott, the three-time NBA champion Lakers guard. “I don’t like the sound of that. But it also makes for a remarkable story when we turn this around as well.”
Los Angeles is missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976, capping the worst two-year stretch in the club’s 67 NBA seasons. The Lakers’ .256 winning percentage is worse than the previous franchise low of .264 posted by the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers, who went 19-53.
Rookie Jordan Clarkson and Wesley Johnson missed the finale with injuries, which have already sidelined nine Los Angeles players for the season.
The Lakers missed 339 man-games to injury this season, blowing away last season’s record 319. Seven injured Lakers dressed like pallbearers to watch their eight healthy teammates from the bench _ but Kobe Bryant, who is making $25 million next season, wasn’t among them.
“It’s embarrassing, but tough times build character,” said forward Ryan Kelly, who scored 12 points. “This organization is obviously going through a tough time, but everyone in this locker room is trying to get better.”
Compared to the Lakers, Sacramento had a smooth finish to a season featuring three head coaches and their ninth consecutive losing record. Ray McCallum had 19 points for Sacramento, which also missed the playoffs for the ninth straight year.
The Kings (29-53) finished with one more victory than they managed in each of the previous two seasons by sweeping a season-ending, two-game series with their once-mighty California rivals.
Sacramento went 11-19 under new coach George Karl, who is expected back in the fall to continue the rebuilding effort.
“We’re feeling better about how we could play,” Karl said. “The team can go home for the summer and relax for a little while knowing they busted their tails. I feel like we can be a good basketball team. I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m excited to get into being a front-office guy and doing whatever it is they want us to do on the coaching staff.”
Kings: David Stockton played his second NBA game, getting five points and seven assists in 20 minutes. He is just 15,798 assists shy of tying his father, John, atop the NBA career leaderboard. … The Kings played without Omri Casspi, who sat out with gastroenteritis after scoring 26 against the Lakers on Monday. Sacramento already shut down stars DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay for the season.
Lakers: Brown joined Bryant as the only player to score 30 points in a game this season. … Los Angeles lost its last three meetings with Sacramento this season, losing its season series with the Kings for just the second time in a decade. … The Lakers began the week guaranteed to finish with the NBA’s fourth-worst record and roughly an 83 per cent chance of keeping their first-round draft pick, which will go to Philadelphia if they finish the draft lottery outside the top five.
BROWN AND BLUE
The starting backcourt for the franchise that once suited up Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson and Bryant was Brown and Vander Blue, two recent free-agent signees with 24 combined games of NBA experience. Blue scored 15 points on 6-for-23 shooting and played all 48 minutes in his home debut for the Lakers, who signed the guard out of the D-League two days ago.
Kings: Season mercifully over.