With just two wins in their past eight games, the Los Angeles Lakers look more like a team battling for draft position than the preseason-crowned Western Conference champions.
But even with their struggles, it doesn't appear is if the team has been delivered a knockout blow—yet.
Not with 41 games left on their schedule, and certainly not with the talent level on the roster.
Granted, that talent has been in place for a large portion of the club's opening 41 games. And despite some sizable advantages on paper, the team has won just 41.5 percent of them (17-24).
As the back end of the Western Conference playoff standings creeps closer to the .500 mark, the Lakers will need to play 28-13 (.682) ball from here out to hit the 45-win mark. In other words, they'll need to finish the second half of the season with a winning percentage better than the first-half performances of 26 teams in the league.
It's a long shot by every measure of the word, but not an impossible task. Not if this team can finally capitalize on the tantalizing collection of talent that had Metta World Peace setting a lofty 73-9 goal before the season, with the basketball world not entirely able to write off his aspirations.
*All statistics used in this article are accurate as of 1/22/2013.