As we come to the end of the NBA 2012/13 season, the postseason entrants are slowly but surely emerging. What of the mighty Los Angeles Lakers, holders of sixteen NBA Championship banners? Yes, the Lakers, the same ones who have traditionally been perennial playoff contenders in recent years. Having not missed the playoffs since the 2004/05 NBA season, they are perilously close to an early summer break right now.
The Season Finale
The Lakers (season 40-37) are struggling to stay in the postseason game, being one win behind the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz (season 41-37). Going into tiebreaker with Utah is not enough, as the Jazz holds a 2-1 advantage in season record. With five season games remaining, they need a good final run to overtake the Jazz, or hope for Utah to fall behind.
Utah Jazz: The Final Stretch
Utah has a fair schedule ahead with a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday (10th Apr), two games with the shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves (home 13th, road 16th) and a final season closer on the road against the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (18th). One would expect the Jazz to close Minnesota out, while throwing a good fight against OKC and likely resting their starters on the final game.
Utah Jazz: should they win both Minnesota games and lose the rest, a possible 2-2 record – season 43-39.
L.A. Lakers: Closing It Out
The Lakers however, face a tougher challenge. After an easy start against the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on Wednesday (10th Apr), they will be matching up against Portland at the Rose Garden Arena on a back-to-back (11th), followed by three tough contenders: Golden State (13th), San Antonio (15th) and Houston (18th). For the Lakers to clinch the eighth seed, they need to be two wins ahead because a tie is not enough.
Los Angeles Lakers: Can they come out on top with a 4-1 streak to end the season 44-38 and get the eighth spot?
Never count the Lakers out. You know it: the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant will do whatever it takes to get a win. The question is, is Kobe’s indomitable will and competitiveness enough? Will the Lakers get to the finish line winning, regardless of the challenges ahead?
The Immediate Future
After the 2012/13 season, the Lakers will be thrown into a future with unanswered questions ahead.
- Dwight Howard will be a free agent, will he choose to stay with the Lakeshow?
- How will Pau Gasol’s role be in the Lakers, will he be content with a sixth man role should Howard stay?
- Will the aging Nash hold it together for another season?
- The most important question of all: will Kobe choose to fight on with a final year on his contract in the new 2013/14 season in a bid for a sixth ring, or throw in the towel?
The Draft Situation
The Lakers will not have a first-round pick available in the 2013/14 draft, but will own a second-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies. Is this going to be a big deal?
In recent years, the Lakers have not relied on rookies to strengthen their roster – the most outstanding recent Lakers who were also draft picks would likely be Jordan Farmar in ’06, Sasha Vujačić and Andrew Bynum from ’05, all of whom played a part on the ’08 and ’09 championship teams.
That being said, it still affects their immediate trade prospects.
Faced with an uncertain road to the post season, it remains to be seen how the Lakers will evolve with the new season. We can only speculate if the Lakers come through and make a magical playoff run, and applaud if the team decides to stay put and work towards banner #17.