The Lakers, currently missing Gasol and center Andrew Bynum—two big reasons why they have had such a successful season—have been showing their resiliency by staying within percentage points of first place out in the West.
So now the question is: when the Lakers are finally healthy, will they be legitimate contenders to win the title?
Simply put, yes.
The West is so open right now that really any one of the top five teams can be in the title game.
The Lakers, when healthy, may be the most complete team in the NBA, with the recently play of Lamar Odom, Kobe continuing to do what he does night in and night out, the leadership of Derek Fisher, and the overall play off the bench.
If the Lakers can continue to get contributions out of all of those key factors they will be tough to beat in a seven-game series.
The unsung heroes of all this might just be Phil Jackson and his coaching staff.
Kobe was recently quoted saying that he believes Phil knows his players well and will do everything he can to keep them in shape.
Phil has given guys like Kobe, Fisher, and Odom days off to rest from a long game against Golden State and rest the injuries that have plagued them recently, so they will hopefully be fully ready for the stretch run toward the playoffs.