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Nowhere to go but up for LA

Updated: 2013-02-24 09:32
By Dusty Lane (China Daily)

I remember quite clearly the last time a professional sports team was anywhere nearly as disappointing as this season's Los Angeles Lakers.

Nowhere to go but up for LA

That's because that team was also the Los Angeles Lakers.

Teams accustomed to greatness will, from time to time, swing and miss. Hard.

The year was 2003. Though Lance Armstrong had but one testicle, he did have five Tour de France titles and a home in billions of hearts. Oscar Pistorius had no legs, no medals, and no murder charges. And Barry Bonds was just a guy with a big home-run numbers and a bigger heart (and cranium).

The Lakers were going through a lull, for them, having failed to win an NBA title the previous season.

Shaquille O'Neal went out and recruited Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and suddenly LA had four dead-lock Hall of Famers in its starting five.

The result was somewhat predictable, with the Lakers losing to the Pistons in the Finals, 4-1, and blowing up the team soon after.

That team was at the front of my mind when I was making my preseason predictions last fall. At one point, I had the Lakers out of the playoffs entirely before caving and moving them up to fourth.

They just had that stink of disappointment on them.

Of course, I thought it would be injuries that got them, and maybe a little bad chemistry. But awful chemistry, terrible coaching - even a dead owner?

It's all a bit much.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I'm changing my mind. At some point, things are going to start breaking LA's way.

Book it now: Lakers vs Heat in the NBA Finals.

Kobe Bryant is on my side, of course.

"It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will," he told Sports Illustrated. "And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone - Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver ... whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."

Let's start with that chemistry problem. It's hard to imagine it getting worse, but very easy to see it getting better.

The team is coming off an emotional stretch after the death of beloved owner Jerry Buss. They're already riding a hot streak, having won six of their last nine. And on Friday night, they began an eight-game stretch against five teams with losing records.

Let's just imagine they come out salty, rattle off six or seven wins in that stretch and pull a couple games above .500.

Suddenly everybody's getting along, with the playoffs fast approaching.

And it's not like it's unprecedented for the Lakers to be a strong second-half team. During the Shaquille O'Neal era, they were infamous for taking it easy in the first half of the season, then pouring it on the second.

So there you have it. A red-hot Lakers team rolls into the playoffs as a No 6 seed, scores a first-round upset and fights its way into the Finals.

Of course, I've been wrong before.

Dusty Lane is a sports copy editor who can be reached at

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