However unlikely the scenario may seem, a playoff berth remains in the realm of possibilities for the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s different from previous seasons when the Lakers were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention around this time in March.
Although sneaking in is a possibility, making the playoffs is not a topic of discussion for Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “They talk about the playoffs in the locker room amongst each other,” he said after Tuesday’s practice.
“It’s not one of the things I like bringing up. I like to keep it more in what we’re doing day-to-day, but they know how important it is for us to continue to build and get better. We can’t waste the last 20 games of the season.
“We’ve got to use these as opportunities to build momentum into the summer, whether it’s the playoffs or not. And get confidence and get better, because it’s all part of the journey we’re on to being a playoff and eventually championship team.”
Walton has been consistent in his message of building toward a bright future, which the team has embraced and worked toward accomplishing that goal. It’s what made Monday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers all the more maddening.
Previously, the Lakers, particularly being shorthanded, would not have been expected to win a game against the third-seeded team in the Western Conference. “It’s the feeling we want,” Walton said of the shift in expectations. “And it’s a feeling these guys have earned with the way that they’ve played.”
Julius Randle previously remarked on the work the Lakers have done to re-establish the franchise as one that can’t be taken lightly game in and game out, and the sense of pride of that came with that. He too is mindful of using the present to set up the future.
“There’s a culture we’re trying to build,” Randle said. “We’re developing everybody but we’re trying to win and learn. We’re a young team that’s trying to learn how to win games for now and the future as well.”
On the difference between this season and last, Randle said, “Last year we really weren’t playing for anything. We were playing to obviously develop us young players, but this year we feel like we’re playing to develop a culture.”