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Can the Lakers make the playoffs?
Debate over L.A.'s chances in the West
Published Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:09 pm
by Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, The Afro


Mired in a season-long slump, the Los Angeles Lakers have been struggling with mediocrity since the leagueís opening tip-off in late October.

Kobe Bryant, dribbling against the Charlotte Bobcatsí Gerald Henderson, and the Los Angeles Lakers are ninth in the NBA Western Conference.

The stars havenít aligned for the Lakers as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have either struggled with injuries or inconsistency. Bryant and Howard havenít meshed on or off the court, while Gasol has barely been healthy enough to play.

With a 27-29 overall record and currently in ninth place in the Western Conference, the Lakers have no margin for error as April and May approach.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the Afro-American debate this question.

Riley: They have to. They have the talent and they have the motivation after the recent death of team owner Jerry Buss. Theyíre only one spot outside the final seed for the Western playoffs but you can see them slowly coming together as the season moves along.

Gasol should be back in a few weeks and theyíve gone 7-3 in their last ten games. The Lakers are on to something.

Green: Yes, the Lakers are playing better, but so are the teams in front of them such as Utah and Houston. The chemistry in that locker room might be the worst in the league and their two biggest stars, Bryant and Howard, are constantly at each otherís throats. They have a serious up-hill battle.

Do you trust the Lakers right now? Why would you after what youíve seen so far?

Riley: I trust the talent on this team, with Bryant, Howard, Nash, Ron Artest and Gasol coming back. Letís be honest here, Howard and Bryant might be the two best players at their positions right now and that fact is hard to overlook.

Bryant is already on record saying theyíll make the playoffs. Thereís something about the face of your franchise offering a guarantee that just makes the other players play a little bit harder.

Green: Los Angeles still has games left against the Clippers, Spurs, Pacers, Bulls and a host of other solid teams who are playing good basketball right now. Theyíre not only fighting themselves, but other teams as well. We keep talking about the Lakers like theyíre this superior, talented team.

But with an older Bryant, an injured Howard and Gasol, and two other veterans in Nash and Artest that are nowhere near the players that they used to be, the talent on the Lakers isnít as great as weíre led to believe.

Riley: Despite all of that theyíre still more talented and experienced than the teams directly ahead of them right now for a playoff spot. You canít tell me theyíre not more formidable than Houston, Golden State and Utah.

I have to believe that they would probably go further in postseason play than any of those teams. Age aside, thereís still room for one more run and this is probably their last serious run at another title. I canít see Bryant letting that hope die so easily.

Green: Los Angeles has had their window, and now itís closed. Thereís no use trying to save it with reasons and excuses. The Lakers are what their record shows: a middling team with marginal depth and only a few game-changing players.

Howard isnít the star he used to be, and Bryant isnít the dominator that he used to beóand hasnít been in years. Coupled with the fact that the Lakers have the wrong head coach running the team in Mike DíAntoni, and things will get a lot uglier before this team finds greatness again.

Itís time to officially say goodbye to the Los Angeles Lakers as we once knew them.



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