Jerry West still believes.
The former Laker and Lakers general manager -- part of a few mega teams himself that disappointed by not winning a championship before finally breaking through in the early 1970s -- believes the Lakers can pull themselves together and make a run for the Playoffs. a feat that is getting more and more difficult by the day as the games run out and the chemistry seems to fizzle.
Before it was announced that Pau Gasol would miss at least six weeks with a torn plantar fascia, West said he believed the Lakers would be able to make up the 4.5 games they need to catch the eighth seed in the West. That would mean quite an incredible finish for a team that lacks a little bit of depth and is fighting off injuries to Dwight Howard and now Pau Gasol.
Still, West is right in one respect: When the Lakers are good, they are very good.
Sometimes (the Lakers) have been good, and sometimes they just don't seem to have it. Their biggest issue has been defensively. But I think they're playing better defensively now, and Kobe's play has been extraordinary, the way he's not shooting as much and getting other people involved.
Nobody is going to want to play them in the first round. With the veterans the Lakers have, I don't think it's going to make a big difference to them if they creep in as the 6, 7 or 8 [seed]. In the playoffs, they're going to be dangerous.
West is now a consultant with the Warriors and his team is sitting pretty inside the top eight. He certainly would feel a bit uneasy if the Warriors ended up playing the Lakers in the first round and the Lakers had figured things out enough to topple them and end their surprising season.
Still, the question has to be asked: Are the Lakers getting better?
Los Angeles has now won six of its last seven games. The Lakers have given up less than 100 points per 100 possessions in just three of those games. Indeed, even with Dwight Howard missing many of those games, Los Angeles has shown incredible improvement on the defensive end.
The Lakers are posting a defensive rating of 103.1 this season, 17th in the league. In this seven-game stretch, the Lakers average defensive rating is 97.6. If the Lakers continue to play stronger defense, the team has the offensive weapons to remain dangerous.
West is definitely someone to listen to. He constructed the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O'Neal tandem in the summer of 1996, really revolutionizing how to clear cap room to make big free agent signings. He is widely regarded as one of the top talent evaluators in the league and one of its best all-time general managers.
If anyone knows what to do with a team, it certainly would seem that West would know.
So maybe we should listen to The Logo. Los Angeles may not be out yet.
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