Jerry West confident in Lakers
But that doesn't mean the Lakers Hall of Fame guard and former front-office great believes his old team will fall short in its pursuit.
"I believe they're going to make the playoffs," West said Tuesday in a phone interview with ESPNNewYork.com. "Look out West, there are some teams two or three games over .500, so they can do it. ... Can the Lakers win the championship? They have to get to the playoffs first, and I think they will get there."
West was speaking before the Lakers (22-26) faced the Brooklyn Nets (28-19) in Brooklyn without the injured Dwight Howard and the suspended Metta World Peace, and with Kobe Bryant in the lineup despite a sprained elbow.
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The Lakers have won five of their past six games but entered Tuesday 3½ games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"Sometimes (the Lakers) have been good, and sometimes they just don't seem to have it," West said. "Their biggest issue has been defensively. But I think they're playing better defensively now, and Kobe's play has been extraordinary, the way he's not shooting as much and getting other people involved.
"Nobody is going to want to play them in the first round. With the veterans the Lakers have, I don't think it's going to make a big difference to them if they creep in as the 6, 7 or 8 [seed]. In the playoffs, they're going to be dangerous."
The same could be said of the surprising Warriors, who entered Tuesday with a 30-17 record and a hold on the fifth seed.
"We need Andrew Bogut," West said of the center, who just returned from an ankle injury. "But we're better than everyone thinks we are."
West won't be sharing any of his in-house scouting reports with Bryant, the star he acquired in a trade with the then-Charlotte Hornets following the 1996 draft, and the player he called the greatest Laker of all-time.
"We don't talk anymore," West said. "We have different agendas now."