The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Hope still remains for lowly Lakers

After the great offseason the Lakers had, a lot of fans thought this could be the year for yet another title in L.A.  — acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard was supposed to put this team in contention with the Thunder and possibly challenge the Heat in the finals.

Now it’s almost the All-Star break, and the Lakers are sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference. Until recently, they have struggled.

It started with the firing of coach Mike Brown, just five games into the season. A questionable move, but Brown may not have been the right fit. The biggest mistake was when management had the chance to bring Phil Jackson back and went with Mike D’Antoni instead. D’Antoni is a solid head coach, but he wasn’t the right fit for the Lakers.

Nonetheless, the Lakers organization has said there won’t be any coaching changes and most likely no trading of their big players before All-star break, unless it’s Pau Gasol. So they’ll most likely have to move forward with what they have.

Gasol has stated he is unhappy with playing as the sixth man and expects to get back into the starting rotation on a regular basis, even when Howard gets back from the shoulder injury. Howard, who has been plagued with little injuries, has finally stopped talking and started playing. If he gets back into the lineup and stays healthy, things could keep looking up.

It is safe to say the whole season has been a let down so far for the Lakers. However, let’s not forget that it took the Miami Heat a year to get things right.

The Lakers are 22-26, three and a half games back for the current 8th seed Houston Rockets right now.

The Lakers can still make the playoffs. They have won five of their last six games during which Kobe Bryant has 61 assists, 10.2 per game. He’s playing at an extremely high level and is passing better than he ever has before.

They’re playing more together than they have all season and have a chance to rest and work on some things during the break.

Their next slate of games is what’s going to make or break their season. In the upcoming week they play four straight on the road at Brooklyn, Boston, Charlotte and Miami. Being just 7-16 on the road doesn’t make it any easier. After the road trip, they play two at home against the Suns and the Clippers before the All-Star break.

The Lakers will be tested against some of the best in the league during these games. If they can at least win four out of six, they’ll still be in good shape. If they lose more than three, I think they’ll be deflated and out of the playoff race.

If they do make it to the playoffs, I think they can be scary. If they get the 8th seed, they’ll likely play either the Spurs or the Thunder. I actually like the Lakers’ chances against the Spurs.

In 2009 the Spurs lost 4-1 in the first round to Dallas as the three seed. They lost 4-0 in the second round to Phoenix the following year, although they only held the 7th seed. In 2011, they lost 4-2 in the first round to Memphis as the top seed and last year lost to the Thunder in the Western Conference finals.

If the Lakers do get in the playoffs and play the Spurs, anything can happen. It’s the playoffs — a new start. A lot can happen with the team they have, especially if they go into the playoffs rolling on all cylinders. They just have to make it there first.