Last summer when the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, it didn’t take long for the critics and national media to start pairing them against the Miami Heat for the NBA title this year. The thought of Kobe Bryant once again reuniting with the best big man in basketball had Lakers fans reminiscing about his days with Shaquille O’Neal.
Of course none of this panned out for the Lakers or their fans. Nobody could have seen the tailspin that would transpire in the first several months of the season coming. From the firing of Mike Brown and hiring Mike D’Antoni, to the inner turmoil of Kobe and company this season, it has been anything but perfect for Los Angeles.
In late February, when his team was 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot and three games under .500, Kobe announced that the Lakers will make the playoffs and be a factor once they get there. There are certain athletes out there you don’t bet against, and Bryant happens to be one of them. He has an ability to step up when his back is against the wall and do the unthinkable.
When he made that statement, certain people laughed and scoffed at the notion they could pull it together. The NBA, however, has to be happy that the guarantee was made. Although they would never come out and say it, the league knows the playoffs will be more of a success if the Lakers are a factor. A possible matchup of the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz does nothing for anyone. However, throw in the possibility of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker facing Bryant, Paul Gasol, Howard, and Steve Nash and the interest level grows immensely. Whether they win a playoff series or not, the NBA knows TV ratings will be driven up every time the Lakers take the court. For this reason alone, the NBA is secretly hoping the prediction of Kobe comes true.