Don't count them out quite yet.
Stop me if you've heard this one—the Los Angeles Lakers' season is over.
The Lakers' success—or lack thereof—has been the story of the season ever since head coach Mike Brown was fired after a sluggish, 1-4 start. They've been written off by pretty much everyone at some point. And yet, here they are, holding onto the eighth seed in the Western Conference, poised to squeak into the playoffs so long as Kobe Bryant's ankle holds up.
Crazy stuff. And also completely impossible. Or at least, it was impossible according to certain members of the media. Let's just say that it looks like more than a few NBA analysts will be eating some crow.
Magic Johnson (via Daniel Buerge of Lakers Nation)
It’s over for my Lakers. No playoffs, no nothing.
Magic Johnson said this in mid-January. Seems a little bit early for that kind of talk. Especially when the team in question is just six games under .500. Now, if you're talking about a team like the Washington Wizards (5-28 at the time) or the Charlotte Bobcats (9-26), then sure, count them out.
But a 15-21 team that got an entirely new coach and offensive system seven games into the season? They should probably be given a little more time to figure things out.
Steve Smith (via Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star)
The only reason I said they will make the playoffs is if (other teams) have injuries. Right now, with Pau Gasol out, they don't have a chance. It’s a wrap.
Remember when Pau Gasol's injury was a “sky is falling” moment for the Lakers? Yeah, me neither. Did we really expect them to miss a low-post scorer whose role in their current offense is to stand 15 feet from the basket and look disinterested?
Chris Webber (via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times)
I don't think they can make the playoffs. Of course they should be able to do it, but the parity in the Western Conference is some of the best right now.
Instead of talking about the “parity” in the Western Conference, Chris Webber should have just said what he really meant: The Western Conference is 10,000 times better than its counterpart. Just look at the Eastern Conference standings. The Lakers would be the second-best team in the East, third-best at worst. The difference in depth between the two conferences is just amazing.
Robert Horry (via Ryan Ward of Lakers Nation)
I don’t think the Lakers are going to be in the NBA Finals, despite Howard and Nash. To go deep into the playoffs, you need a strong bench, not just a great starting lineup. I still believe (last year’s runner-up) Oklahoma City Thunder are the favorites in the Western Conference, and (champions) Miami of course have just gotten stronger with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
What's great about Robert Horry's quote is that:
- It was given before the season even began and when everyone was in “the Lakers might win 70 games and ruin the league” mode.
- It looks like he was 100 percent right about why the Lakers wouldn't be as good as everyone said they would be.
- He's Robert Horry—the greatest role player of all time.
Basically, what Horry was saying was: “The Lakers can't win a title because they don't have guys like me on the team.” To be fair, this isn't really sticking a fork in the Lakers, just saying that they wouldn't win a title. And he did say this before James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets, so maybe he would have flipped his pick after after that.
Whatever. Still a gutsy pick coming from Big Shot Rob.
Random NBA Executive (via Steve Aschburner of NBA.com)
At the beginning of the season, I would have thought that Kobe and Dwight could play with me and we'd make the playoffs.
One of the best quotes of the bunch. Mostly because there was a point during this Lakers season when Robert Sacre was getting some serious burn off the bench. And while Random NBA Executive probably isn't as tall as Robert Sacre, he's more than likely just as good at basketball. So he wasn't entirely wrong.
Charles Barkley (via Sean Deveney of Sporting News)
The Lakers had zero chance of making the playoffs before those guys got hurt. Now, it’s negative-17.
That “negative-17” line kills me. This also makes you realize (like Magic's quote did) just how much everyone overreacted to the first couple months of the season and how poorly the Lakers were playing then.
It's actually similar to what happened with the Miami Heat two years ago. That's not to say that the Lakers are going to the finals, just that way too much stock gets put into the first few months of the season.
(via Sports Media News):
The Lakers are old and they are not going to make the playoffs. If by happenstance they do make the playoffs, they’re going to get beat like a drum in the first round.
It's hard to make fun of this quote, mostly because it's true. If the Lakers don't improve by the end of the season, they'll be beaten handily by either the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs. It's tough to imagine them taking even two games from either team at the moment.
Kenny Smith (via Jim Carlisle of the Ventura County Star)
Zero chance [to] make the playoffs. Houston is a team that is going to be over .500. I don’t think the Lakers are going to be over .500 by four games to make the playoffs. Boston has more of a chance to make the playoffs than the Lakers. I believe in the Toronto Raptors more than I believe in the Lakers.
Since this quote was published, the Toronto Raptors have gone a whopping 5-9, whereas the Lakers have gone 10-4. But hey, the Raptors have 15 games left in the season. There's still time!
(via Mark Medina of Inside the Lakers):
Why do we keep talking about a team that’s not going to make the playoffs? It’s just amazing. Nationally, they talk about it. No one’s talking about the demise of the Minnesota Timberwolves. I’m tired of talking about guys who don’t produce.
I totally agree with Kenny Smith's sentiments about the Minnesota Timberwolves. I mention Nikola Pekovic pretty much any time that he can conceivably be brought up in conversation (and believe me, there's a whole lot of ways to do it).
But seeing as the Timberwolves aren't employing four future Hall of Famers and that their “demise” can be summed up with the sentence, “Kevin Love played 18 games,” it seems like there's less to talk about there.
Actually, that's not true. We could just talk about Pekovic. Scratch that.
When they went on a three-game winning streak and everyone got happy. This isn’t real. There’s always been something. 'It’s Mike Brown. We have to change the offense. We got a new coach. Somebody is hurt.' There’s no indication to me where I can point to where there’s something positive where you can put your hat on.
In all fairness, it's hard to disagree with this. It still seems like something is off with the Lakers. Chances are that you've never once sat down to a Lakers game this season and thought, “Wow, the Lakers are really clicking today.”
The question: Is that a good thing or a bad thing? On the one hand, it means that the Lakers have tons of room to improve. But on the other hand, there's only about a month until the playoffs come around. And in that month they have to improve—have to.
On how the Lakers aren't buying into their system (via Medina):
I’m telling you. You and I could go on that bench and if they bought into that system, they could get into the Western Conference Finals. That team has that much talent. It’s not rocket science. Just buy into it.
Particularly funny because odds are Kenny caught a Lakers game early in the year, saw that Chris Duhon was getting heavy minutes and thought:
“Wait—Chris Duhon? I'm definitely still better than that guy. Would it be too late to come out of retirement?” before he saw Metta World Peace or Antawn Jamison completely brick a corner three and thought better of it. There's almost no scenario in which this didn't happen.
(via Sports Media News):
The Lakers will make the playoffs after today and the rallying cry around Dr. Buss [at the memorial service for the Lakers’ owner]. When you see Kareem, and you see Shaq and Phil Jackson, and all of the great Lakers players of past, present and future, it has to make you want to do something different.
Way to stand firm, Kenny. You always stick to your guns. I respect that.