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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers: NBA Playoff Preview

Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Bryant says once his team is in the NBA Playoffs, he fears no one. He has the mentality of one of the greatest of all time. Nothing can stop him come playoff time. With his ability to do just about whatever he wants with the ball in his hands during crunch time, their potential first round matchup has their hands full.

While that sounds great, there are a couple problems with this scenario. The Los Angeles Lakers are currently back in the ninth spot behind the Utah Jazz. First of all, they have to worry about getting in. Bryant will have to use that mentality of his in the regular season before he can even begin to analyze the postseason possibilities. Secondly, Bryant has been banged up as of late. While it may not be the biggest concern to him, it is a concern to the rest of us. He would like to think he is invincible, but the reality is that he is aging and his body doesn’t respond like it used to. The last problem here is that if the Lakers get in, they will be matched up against the top team in the Western Conference in the San Antonio Spurs. For the Lakers to have any chance at beating the top dog, they’re going to need much more production out of the other guys.

Dwight Howard has been somewhat of a mystery. While leading the NBA in rebounding, he has still seen plenty of criticism for his lack of offensive consistency. Not to mention, he tends to open his mouth more often than everyone would like. Steve Nash hasn’t been quite the same guy as he has been in the past. While he still obtains the vision he’s always had, his age is taking a toll on the types of things he can do athletically. Nash will need to depend on his veteran presence and vision on the court to help his team to victory. Pau Gasol hasn’t been used most of the season in the way he would like. However, come playoff time, coach Mike D’Antoni needs to play his big guy. Gasol has been there before and knows how to score. He knows what playoff basketball is like and what it takes to succeed. Gasol must get ample playing time for the Lakers to have a chance.

Lastly, the Lakers will need to defend and to defend well. The Spurs are coached by arguably the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich, and are loaded with depth. Popovich has his guys bought into a system that up until now, has yet to fail. With everyone understanding their role on the team and still being led by Tim Duncan, they are an overall force to be reckoned with. The biggest advantage the Lakers may have is a less-than 100% Tony Parker.

While it is a great sports story to think of Bryant driving his team into the playoffs and knocking off the Spurs, it is one of the more unlikely events to happen come playoff time. Like I’ve said before, anything can happen in the postseason, (especially when you have one of the best players in the NBA leading you). However, the Lakers are going to need a lot more than that to advance past the first round.

Ryan Heckman is a Minnesota Timberwolves writer and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google

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