The talk around town four months ago centered on the Lakers’ chances to collect their 17th NBA championship. Now all the concern involves whether the Lakers can just squeak into the playoffs.
One former prominent Laker doesn’t like the rhetoric one bit.
“When was the last time you saw a team with four potential Hall of Famers say, ‘We just want to make the playoffs?” TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal said on the air Monday during the Lakers-Minnesota Timberwolves telecast.
O’Neal is right about the change in tune. But make no mistake. Everyone from Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Mike D’Antoni still talk about winning this season’s championship.
See, their 116-94 victory Thursday over the Minnesota Timberwolves may have marked the Lakers’ 12th win in the past 17 games. But the Lakers (29-30) are still two games behind the Houston Rockets (31-28) for the eighth playoff spot.
That’s why the Lakers are talking about just making the playoffs because it’s the most concrete benchmark. Should the Lakers reach that, they would then lock their eyes on pursuing the title with belief that their recently strong play will give them the needed momentum to push forward.
But O’Neal doesn’t see it like that.
“I don’t like their train of thought right now,” he said. “With all that talent, and all that’s at stake, I don’t want to [just] make the playoffs. I don’t like that focus because, given they make the playoffs and still lose in the first round, it’s still a failure. You have four potential Hall of Famers on that team. That team was built for championships.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org