March 23, 2013
Now that the Lakers making the playoffs seems much more like an eventuality than a faint possibility, it's only natural that the pundits will begin lining up to assess the team's chances once the postseason begins.
Jerry West was first in line apparently, and said that he believes the Lakers would be a dangerous playoff opponent — despite the team's low seed, which in turn would mean a matchup against a team that's been elite all season long.
From Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
"I definitely wouldn't want to play them, I know that," West said. "I think they'd have a chance against anyone."
A Hall of Fame player with the Lakers and now an executive with the Golden State Warriors, West mentioned two teams the Lakers wouldn't want to face. The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs were not among them.
The Lakers find themselves in the postseason picture due to a marked overall improvement since the All-Star break, but also thanks to a Utah Jazz team that can't seem to stop losing. L.A.'s injury issues have prevented them from coming together fully, as we witnessed during a blowout loss to the Suns in Phoenix on Monday.
The team is expected to get healthy in a hurry, with both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol likely to return to the lineup on Friday against the Wizards.
The Lakers are currently in eighth in the West — a game and a half ahead of the Jazz, a game and a half behind the Rockets, and two and a half games behind the Warriors. Given the schedule to close out the season, a best-case scenario would be a rise to the sixth seed, but finishing at seven or eight seems much more likely.
Should that happen, L.A. is looking at opening the playoffs on the road against either San Antonio or Oklahoma City, two teams that have played consistent, elite-level basketball for the majority of the season. There's something to be said for peaking at the right time, of course, which a fully healthy Lakers squad might very well have a chance to do if things come together for them over the last 13 games of the regular season.
But while West mentioned Denver and Memphis as matchup nightmares for the Lakers (Denver, yes; Memphis, I'm still not sold), he failed to mention the Spurs at all, while commenting that the Thunder don't seem to be as good since they traded James Harden.
Something tells me San Antonio and OKC will have plenty to say about how far the Lakers go in the postseason, should either team be fortunate enough to draw L.A. in the first round of the playoffs.