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Eric Walden: L.A. Lakers not of sound bodies — or minds
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This season's Lakers team has had a list of ailments long enough to make even the most hard-core hypochondriac shake his head in disbelief. Problem is, the majority of their maladies actually have a basis in reality.

Steve Nash: broken leg.

Steve Blake: torn abdominal muscle.

Jordan Hill: fractured hip.

Dwight Howard: torn shoulder labrum.

Pau Gasol: knee tendinitis and a concussion.

It's the last one that's the most intriguing, however. Despite all medical evidence to the contrary, it would appear the Spaniard's head injury has become a communicable disease. How else to explain so many associated with the franchise spewing nonsense and being unable to provide the correct answer to the most basic question of a concussion test: Do you know where you are?

Clearly, they do not.

Even after Friday's 116-101 debacle against the Thunder, in which OKC players went straight to the basket with less difficulty than it takes Brangelina to navigate a red carpet, so many of the Lakers remained either defiant or delusional.

And, frankly, they're not that far apart at this point for a team that's lost six straight games to fall to 15-21 on the season.

Kobe Bryant, asked if he'd given thought to L.A. missing the playoffs, replied, "Nah, I'm way too stubborn."

Metta World Peace, queried whether it was silly to believe the Lakers still have a shot at the postseason, let alone a championship, said, "We'll see you in June."

Right.

That was the thought, anyway, when Nash and Howard were added during the summer to give L.A. the most star-studded starting five this side of South Beach. It was widely assumed that with four potential Hall of Famers in tow, they'd challenge OKC for the Western Conference crown.

You see any kind of challenge Friday?

Granted, a game in which their frontcourt featured starts by and heavy minutes from Robert Sacre and Earl Clark is perhaps not the most representative to judge their capacity to compete with the Thunder.

Then again, it's not as though they've given anyone any indication at any time this season that they are remotely close to what we thought they'd be, even when they've had all their key players available.

It's that whole "key players" thing that keeps feeding the fallacy, though.

Executive vice president Jim Buss just told L.A. radio station 710 AM, "How can you not believe in this team? This team is built to win. It's a very, very solid team."

Even former coach Phil Jackson, he of the 11 rings (including five in L.A.), who should probably have a more pragmatic view after being passed over for Mike D'Antoni following the Mike Brown firing, is suckered in by the star power, telling the Los Angeles Times in a Thursday email: "I still believe the Lakers can make the playoffs. They might have to have a 'come to Jesus' moment to get their defense in order, but they have the talent."

Actually, neither talent nor divine assistance seems capable of keeping L.A.'s opponents under triple digits these days. And here's a bit more relevant math while we're at it: The Lakers will need to win about 70 percent of their remaining 46 games just to hit the average number of wins it usually takes to earn the Western Conference's No. 8 playoff seed.

So, while the Lakers maintaining their dogged insistence that they're not done yet may be admirable, it's not especially practical.

It would appear Magic Johnson is one of the few in La-la-land who sees this season for what it really is: "It's over for my Lakers," the ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer said during halftime of Friday's game. "No playoffs, no nothing."

Finally … a healthy dose of reality.

ewalden@sltrib.com

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