Kobe Bryant Says Lakers Will Definitively Make Playoffs

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2013

Despite an up-and-down season fraught with infighting and spoiled expectations, Kobe Bryant still believes the Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs.

And, in typically blunt fashion, he's not mincing words on the subject.

Per Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated, Bryant said, "It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone—Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver—whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."

Well, there you have it—the Lakers are going to make the postseason. I guess we can all just go on about our business and check in again in May, when the Lakers will be involved in a best-of-seven series against one of the West's elite.

Then again, recent history and logic prevents the rest of us from being quite as confident as Bryant is.

Everyone else who's been watching the Lakers this year isn't so sure that the locker-room chasm between Dwight Howard (who an NBA assistant told McCallum was a "clown") and Bryant will suddenly cease to exist.

Similarly, most reasonable viewers don't expect the Lakers' persistent failures on defense and lack of a clear offensive plan to abruptly straighten out. There's just too much evidence that the issues with L.A.'s roster, coach and team identity are too deep-seeded and ingrained to disappear overnight.

But Bryant's convinced that everything will work itself out.

He wouldn't be as certain about the Lakers' playoff destiny if he wasn't. And really, nobody should be surprised that No. 24 feels this way. Confidence is a large part of just about every great athlete's mental makeup; Bryant may just have more than most.

For what it's worth, the Lakers' other big names are on board with Bryant's guarantee. Steve Nash was a little dismissive of the significance of a playoff promise but lauded his teammate's bravado.

"That's great. You love it when your best player has that confidence and that challenge. In a way, he's put it out for us to go get now," Nash said, per Arash Markazi of ESPN. "Yeah, I guarantee it, too...I feel the whole guarantee thing is...I don't know. If I went and guaranteed it, would you guys care?"

And Howard's on board, too.

Again, per Markazi of ESPN, D12 said, "We got to have faith, and if we don't, we're not going to make it, but I believe that we're going to turn this around and we're going to be great."

Realistically, it's certainly not impossible for the Lakers to crash the postseason party.

They're currently 3.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 27 games left to play. If they can make up about one game on the eighth-seeded Houston Rockets every three weeks, they'll be right in the thick of things when the two teams meet on April 17 in the season's final game.

A 3.5-game deficit doesn't sound like much, and really, it isn't. But to make up the difference, L.A. will have to shore up its defense, which ranks a pedestrian 15th in efficiency this year.

More than that, the Lakers will have to find a way to get along.

Based on the way Bryant and Howard have exchanged barbs all season long, that seems like a pretty tall order.


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