Despite win over Utah, Lakers have a long way to go

The Lakers defeated the Jazz, 102-84, but have little to cheer about as they entered Friday four games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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Streamers fell from the rafters Friday night inside Staples Center, the Lakers having beaten the middling Utah Jazz to end a four-game losing streak.


No one should cheer anything short of a 10-game winning streak with this team, given the way things have gone in a one-step-forward, four-steps-back kind of season.

There won't be any celebrating three months from now unless radical changes are made involving this mishmash roster or a coach who can identify what's wrong but can't seem to fix it.

Neither seems likely.

Beleaguered Coach Mike D'Antoni is apparently here to stay after receiving a vote of confidence Thursday from Lakers executives Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.


What's worse, trading Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol could actually be a net loss for a team that can't win with any regularity even with the underperforming big men.

Double gulp.

Yes, Howard has been a hobbled, smiling mess.

But lose him and risk going into the post-Kobe Bryant era without a franchise player who could be a force again by the end of this season.

Yes, Gasol has disappeared more often than Criss Angel.

But unload the Spaniard and expect to get cents on the euro, not to mention setting the Lakers up for the frightening possibility that they lose both of their top post players should Howard decide not to sign a maximum extension this summer.

The future seems bleak no matter who is in the picture.

The Lakers entered Friday four games out of the No. 8 seeding in the Western Conference, meaning that even a monumental surge over the next few months would result in a first-round series against Oklahoma City, San Antonio or — eek — the Clippers.

Talk about one and undone.

What is the best-case scenario in D'Antoni's mind?

"Make the playoffs and then win a championship," he said before the Lakers' 102-84 victory over the Jazz. "Other than that … "

D'Antoni shrugged as his voice trailed off, indicating he was halfway kidding. Unfortunately for him, turning this season around will require some serious tweaking.

"We're down, what, four games from eighth [place] and six from seventh and we've got [40 games] to go," D'Antoni said. "So, obviously, you run off 10 [consecutive victories] or so and you're in good shape."

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