LOS ANGELES -- Already down three point guards and now facing the prospect of playing without Kobe Bryant for the next six weeks, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was undeterred when asked about his team's postseason chances.
"Yeah, we can do that," D'Antoni said before the Lakers' 104-91 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. "Yes."
What is D'Antoni's formula for getting the Lakers, now 13-13 and in 10th place in the Western Conference, back into the playoffs for the ninth straight year?
"I don't want to be too simple, but you got to win games," D'Antoni said. "We just got to play. We got to get our point guards back, get Kobe back in a month or whatever and then go from there. Hopefully we'll get some luck. We're on the other side of the coin right now.
"We got to be a little lucky and we got to start treading a little bit above .500 for a while, and if we can do that, then we may get some cavalry later on."
The Lakers have been anything but lucky since D'Antoni was hired as coach five games into last season.
They've suffered a seemingly never-ending string of injuries to their roster, the latest rash ravaging L.A.'s backcourt with Bryant (fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee), Steve Nash (nerve root irritation in his back and hamstrings), Steve Blake (torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow) and Jordan Farmar (left hamstring tear) all sidelined simultaneously.
Making matters worse for L.A. is that it plays in the West. The Lakers' .500 winning percentage would rank fourth in the Eastern Conference. In the West, however, it leaves them on the outside of the playoff picture.
"It's difficult every year," D'Antoni said of the Western Conference. "The last two, three years, you win two more [games], you lose two more, you're either 12th place or fifth place. That's just the way the West is. It's been that way for a number of years. There's some really good teams, and you have to win the games that you're favored, for sure, and you can't kick any away."
While D'Antoni said it was "a little early yet" to be checking the standings for postseason positioning each day, he estimated the Lakers would need "45 or 46" wins to qualify for the playoffs, meaning they would have to finish 32-24 or better.
"It's got to be at least that," D'Antoni said.