With the Los Angeles Lakers sitting outside the playoff standings USSDU takes a look at their prospects for the remainder of the season.[caption id="attachment_14562" align="aligncenter" width="558"] Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images[/caption] In what has to be one of the most drama filled seasons in Laker history, the team has fallen well behind the 8 ball and is currently sitting outside the playoff game. Kobe Bryant has recently come out and guaranteed that the Lakers will be making the playoffs this season so USSDU takes a look at their chances and what stands in their way.
The OutlookCurrent Record - 9th (27-29) Games Remaining - 26 (12 Home, 14 Away) Games Against Teams Better Than .500 - 12 (6 Home, 6 Away) The Lakers full schedule can be viewed here and it doesn't look like a bad run home even though they play more away games than home games. ESPN have the Lakers pegged to finish at 41-41 (9th in the West) but by my estimates they can go 17-9 in their last 26 if they play like they have been recently. Unfortunately their final three games are against playoff teams (Golden State, San Antonio and Houston) and these could be vitally important to securing that 8th seed.
Team DynamicMuch has been said about what goes on in the Lakers locker room this season and it appears that most of the team talk is done via the media instead of face to face. In a repeat of history it looks like the problems between Kobe and Superman are going to impact the team and not in a positive way. It's hard to get a solid read on the situation between the two alpha males of the team but most of the teams problems seemed to stem from Dwight's actions and attitude. Kobe represents the hard working, intense, no nonsense player whereas Dwight is on the other end of the spectrum with his easy-going and jovial nature. This is where the root of the problem seems to be and it is showing both on and off the court. The Lakers have played horrible defense all season as no one is taking responsibility and the blame game is being played all too often. Problems between star players soon trickle down to cause problems with the role players as relationships are put in jeopardy and the locker room becomes tense and awkward. Dwight has been called out for his perceived lack of passion for winning but as he was the only true superstar on the team in Orlando the locker room pretty much functioned as one. With Kobe not willing to accept failure and only focused on winning a sixth ring it has to be frustrating to see a guy that isn't playing as hard and complains to the media about his touches. Stuck in the middle of all this is the rest of the Lakers and it must be awkward with so much tension in the locker room. Thankfully it appears that things on the mend with the starting line-up now settled and Steve Blake back to provide some better bench minutes. Howard has recently come out in the media and said that his lethargic play was because his conditioning wasn't right after off-season back surgery, which could be a sign that he is willing to focus on the last part of the season and put his troubles behind him.
How To Keep Winning?This is a very subjective question and one that has a million different answers but the key to winning might not be as hard as the Lakers think. Kobe - Throughout all the drama Kobe has shown that he can do anything, anytime for this Lakers side but the key to making his effort count will be how he contributes, not how much. When Kobe is passing and getting the team involved the Lakers look unstoppable (except when he passes too much like against Phoenix) and there is a good reason why. Even if a player isn't shooting they can keep in rhythm by simply touching the ball on almost every possession so they feel involved and this leads to more effort on both ends. Everyone has played on that team where one guy dominates the ball and you end up standing around watching for possessions on end. The Lakers have looked like that team for long stretches this season and it cost them a lot of victories. Dwight - The whinging and complaining to the media and his teammates needs to stop. Focus on the ways you can impact a game with rebounding, defense and setting screens. Dwight will be a 20-15 guy every night for this team if he sets his screens hard and crashes the boards for those offensive put backs. Nash will be delighted to have a proper pick and roll player to play with again and opposing teams will have a nightmare trying to contain it. Nash - The crafty old Canadian has settled into his new role quite well this season despite an early injury set back. Deferring to Kobe hasn't been as much of an issue as I thought it would be so not much needs to change with Nash. Keep knocking down the open shots and creating when you can. The Bench - The Lakers bench has been on the whole a bitter disappointment all season with a complete lack of spark and scoring output from some players that are very talented. I called it out early on in the season that needed to step up after the pre-season and it looks like they haven't done much to improve. During the last stretch of the season the bench needs to be providing more quality minutes to take the pressure off of Kobe, Dwight and Nash. Winning does amazing things for team chemistry.
ConclusionThe problems with this team have never been about talent or their ability to win games so there is no reason to doubt they can make the playoffs if they the right way. That "if" is the only thing holding them back and if the team chemistry improves they could be a real threat come April.
Do you think they can make it? Post your thoughts in the comments section below