The guessing game took another turn Wednesday when it was revealed that Kobe Bryant would not play against Sacramento on Friday.
Bryant practiced for a second consecutive day and Steve Nash also took the court, but Bryant wasn't ready for game action.
"He absolutely won't play Friday," team spokesman John Black said Wednesday. "He won't be going with the team and will instead stay in L.A. for an individual workout."
There have been no setbacks, Black said. The Lakers' next game is Sunday against Toronto at Staples Center.
The scrimmaging part of Wednesday's practice was closed to reporters, but Bryant's teammates hadn't been treating him like he was fragile.
"They're not cautious," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They're going to try to take their shots when they can, try to kick him when he's down."
One caveat to the day's events: Bryant practiced two days in a row in mid-November but then stopped after feeling general soreness in his left foot, the same one with the Achilles' injury.
"It could happen [again], but we'll see," D'Antoni said. "That's why I don't want to say [anything], because I don't know. And I don't think anybody knows. He doesn't even know."
Bryant plans to practice again Thursday. The Lakers will also practice Saturday.
Meanwhile, an unsettling event took place while the Lakers consulted medical charts and crossed fingers about Achilles' tendons.
The Western Conference remained the Western Conference.
Even if Bryant comes back against Toronto and Nash returns next week, the Lakers have a lot to do in the standings thanks to geography.
Their 9-9 record, good for a third-place tie in the East, puts them 11th in the West.
"Yeah, but we're real close to fifth," D'Antoni deadpanned. "If we get ourselves straight, then we'll start putting jinxes on other people."
They might need to exercise black magic on a lot of teams.
San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston, the Clippers and Golden State were the sure shots for playoff spots when the season began. Not much has changed there.
But Portland has surged at the start and a number of other teams — Denver, Dallas, Minnesota, Phoenix and New Orleans — are better than expected. Memphis is also in the mix when it gets Marc Gasol back.
"The West is a beast. It's crazy," Lakers forward Wesley Johnson said, adding a half-serious suggestion. "Need to shuffle it up or something."
Indiana and Miami are the only ones with winning records in the 15-team East.
"Is it too late to join the Eastern Conference? Asking for a friend," the Trail Blazers' official Twitter feed said in jest Wednesday.
Nash, for his part, is still a ways from returning, D'Antoni surmised, acknowledging it could be a couple of weeks.
Nash hasn't played since Nov. 10 because of nerve damage in his back. He was on the practice court a second day in a row but didn't log as much playing time as Bryant.
The Lakers are thin at point guard because Jordan Farmar is sidelined about four weeks because of a torn hamstring and Steve Blake is dealing with a hyperextended right elbow that has forced him to shoot with his left hand in practice.
Blake practiced Wednesday, but Bryant could spend time at point guard when he returns.
Xavier Henry will be the backup point guard Friday. He has averaged 0.5 assists per game in his career.
Twitter: @Mike_BresnahanCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times