The Los Angeles Lakers are a mediocre team with very few interesting storylines but dominate NBA discussion even now because they are the Lakers and they have LeBron James. LeBron, tangentially, is one of those few interesting storylines for his team because he has decided to score as often as possible while the season winds down, which is a blast to watch because LeBron almost never does that. He now leads the league in PPG at 37 years-old. The Lakers stink, but LeBron certainly does not.
Anyway, we're three weeks away from the postseason and Los Angeles is all but assured to participate in the play-in game as the No. 9 seed. This means they will have to win two games in order to qualify for the postseason-- one against the No. 10 seed and one against the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 seed matchup. Los Angeles has not won two consecutive games since January 7, so it's a bit of a long shot, but they also expect to have Anthony Davis back by playoff time. So there's reason to hope for fans of the purple and gold.
Should they manage to somehow pull that off, the Lakers would earn the last playoff spot and a date with the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Suns, of course, rather easily sent Los Angeles home in the first round last year. In the time that has passed since then, the two squads have gone in opposite directions; the Suns have only gotten more dominant while the Lakers have fallen apart completely.
Despite all this knowledge, Shaquille O'Neal expressed his firmly-held belief that the Lakers would take down the Suns in the postseason if Los Angeles makes it past the play-in tournament.
Hats off to the big man for his continued loyalty to the brand. And, if you squint, you can kinda sorta see what Shaq is saying. The Lakers are not good but obviously still have LeBron and AD. If they get on enough of a roll to make it to the postseason then they are, in theory, good enough together to beat anybody regardless of who else is on the court.
However, it feels far more likely that Shaq here hasn't watched as many Suns games as he should be. The Suns are the best team in the NBA. It's not particularly close, either. They are nine games ahead of the Warriors for the top spot in the West. Chris Paul hasn't played in a month yet Phoenix has gone 11-4 without him and are currently riding a six-game win streak. They started the season 19-3, for goodness sake.
You know what the Lakers are? Not that. There have been 10,000 words written about how things have gone wrong in Los Angeles for every word written about how dominant Phoenix is. It is the nature of the market inequality at play here but doesn't change the quality of play on the floor.
The Lakers will never be dead until they're really, officially eliminated, I guess. Maybe they can do us all a favor and drop out of the play-in so we can put a stop to this sooner rather than later.