L.A. Times sports editor Mike James and Lakers beat writer Mike Bresnahan talk about Kobe Bryant¿s comeback following his eight-month recovery from an Achilles' tendon tear and assess the performance of the Lakers in their recent games.

With two straight losses, the Lakers have dipped back below .500 to with a 10-11 record.

In the competitive Western Conference, the Lakers now stand in 12th place -- ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans (9-10) by mere percentage points.

The road ahead isn't easy for the Lakers as they try to reintegrate Kobe Bryant, back from an Achilles' tendon injury. The team plays the next four games in five nights, all on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Charlotte Bobcats, Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies.

All four teams have records equal to or better than the Lakers'.

If the Lakers can find a way to win under difficult circumstances, they are still just three games behind the sixth place Denver Nuggets (13-8).

A handful of teams are bunched up in between, including the Dallas Mavericks (13-9), Phoenix Suns (12-9), Golden State Warriors (12-10), Grizzlies (10-10) and Minnesota Timberwolves (10-11).

Of course if the Lakers were in the Eastern Conference, even at 10-11, they'd sit in fifth or sixth place, tied with the Bobcats (10-11).

ALSO:

Kobe Bryant incrementally improving

Pau Gasol, Lakers struggling defensively

Lakers' defensive struggles continue in loss to Suns

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.