This certainly wasn't part of the plan.
Not that the Lakers officially had one — Tank Option A? Tank Option B? — but they were merrily drifting toward rebuild mode with a nice, comfy spot in the draft lottery thanks to all these injuries.
That was so three games ago.
They went out and beat Cleveland with only five players able to finish the game (barely) and won in Philadelphia thanks to Steve Nash's fountain-of-youth night.
Now their schedule shows home games against Chicago (24-25) and Utah (16-33 before Saturday).
Playoffs, anybody? Uh, no. The Lakers still trail Dallas by 11½ games for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
But they're kind of stuck. Their 18-32 record is better than a growing number of teams and they figure to improve if Nash and Steve Blake keep playing well, plus the possible additions later this month of Kobe Bryant (if healthy) and Pau Gasol (if still with team).
Never have Lakers fans been so sad to see the team move ahead of Boston in the NBA pecking order. Not to mention Milwaukee, Utah, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Orlando, Cleveland and any other teams that go into turtle mode the next two months.
It's a strange dance, a losers' limbo where the suddenly victorious Lakers are touching the bar with their chests.
But they're talking like playoffs aren't out of the question, even though a top-three pick surely seems to be.
"We have to dig ourselves out of a grave right now and it's going to be hard to do," Chris Kaman said. "It's definitely possible. We just need to get our guys back healthy. That's going to be key for us."
But not even Nash, amid the personal euphoria of an unexpectedly great game on his 40th birthday, was willing to peer too far ahead.
"It's a good question," he said. "The West is difficult. You never know what's around the corner with this team so I don't think you should even start talking about that.
"Let's try to build Sunday [against Chicago] and have a good night. We've just had so many guys go down and so many situations that are difficult, especially against the good teams. . . . So I wouldn't want to get carried away and start thinking outcome instead of process for this team."
It was time
Nash seemed almost as relieved as energized by his 19-point outburst against Philadelphia.
His emotions made sense. He has sat out 74 of 132 games because of injuries since joining the Lakers.
"To be able to just be back out there for two games — yeah, I'm rusty, I'm not quite in game shape yet — but to be moving freely and be able to do things you're accustomed to doing out there, it just makes the game a lot more fun," Nash said.
Farmar, Meeks out
Jordan Farmar continues to have issues with a sore hamstring and "had a little bit of a setback," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We're going to err on the side of caution, because we don't want him out."
Bresnahan is a Times staff writer. Pincus is a Times correspondent.