Speaking with Shaun Powell of sportsonearth.com, West was asked what he thought about the current state of the Lakers, and his response was laced with overwhelming optimism:
What people don't understand is the enormous adjustment you have to make as a player in those situations. I was a scorer, Elgin was a scorer and Wilt, even then, liked the ball. We all had to put everything else aside. The Lakers are playing better now, especially defensively, and I think they'll make the playoffs. I think the worst is behind them.
Credit West with putting 60-plus games of tumultuous basketball into a coherent perspective.
He's no stranger to playing on a super team (though he's so humble he would never admit it). When Wilt Chamberlain came to Los Angeles in 1968, West, Elgin Baylor and Chamberlain were forced to adjust their playing styles to complement one another. Just like Kobe, Dwight Howard and the crew today.
Rock bottom for those 1968-69 Lakers consisted of beginning the season 1-3, and there was never any doubts as to whether or not they'd make the playoffs, but the circumstances are similar.
These Lakers have taken longer to sort through their prolific mess (much longer), but bear in mind that Baylor and West played together for eight seasons before Chamberlain's arrival. Bryant, Howard and Steve Nash are all new to one another. They weren't going to become a dominant entity overnight.
Was Jerry West right; will the Lakers make the playoffs?
Even now, there's work to be done, especially on defense, but there's a semblance of superiority in the way the Lakers are playing. They've navigated their way through the entropy and are prepared to come out the other side not unscathed but ready for what comes next.
What "comes next" is procuring that postseason berth West alluded to.
Los Angeles has won 14-of-20 and is presently just 1.5 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot. The team is within grasp of actualizing Kobe's once improbable promise and West's now realistic premonition.
Nothing is etched in stone, of course, but West was right, "the worst is behind" these Lakers.
And the best has yet to come.