- Neil Paine
As if the Lakers weren't already the league's biggest ongoing melodrama this season, Kobe Bryant upped the ante last week, telling Sports Illustrated, "It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone -- Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver -- whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."
Despite the fact the Lakers are on an 11-4 run, John Hollinger's playoff odds make Bryant's vow look like a pipe dream. Based on 5,000 simulations of the remainder of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers entered Sunday with a mere 31 percent probability of making good on their superstar's promise. And for what it's worth, Basketball-Reference's similar system is even less optimistic, pegging the Lakers' chances at just 22.9 percent.
If these forecasts prove prescient, the fallout in Los Angeles will be immense. Relative to preseason expectations, the 2012-13 Lakers could go down in the popular consciousness as the most disappointing team in NBA history -- again, based on preseason expectations. Billed as a collection of four surefire future Hall of Famers (Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol), the raw star power on this roster had Lakers fans prepping for a championship parade in June -- not watching the playoffs open in April without a hint of purple and gold.
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann