If the Lakers make the playoffs, which looks more and more likely, Jerry West has an idea of how they’ll do.
“I definitely wouldn’t want to play them, I know that,” West said. “I think they’d have a chance against anyone.”
A Hall of Fame player with the Lakers and now an executive with the Golden State Warriors, West mentioned two teams the Lakers wouldn’t want to face. The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs were not among them.
“I think if the Lakers would have their preference, they probably wouldn’t want to play Denver. I don’t think anyone would want to play them,” West said Thursday on a conference call. “Denver has proven they can win on the road and they just don’t lose at home.”
West then said Memphis would be a tough matchup for the Lakers, comparing the Grizzlies to a “bunch of pack dogs” because of their defense. “To me, they’ve got the most underrated player in the league on their team in Marc Gasol,” West said.
But as of now, the Lakers (36-33) would be more likely to play Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the first round, not Memphis or Denver.
“If you watch Oklahoma City, to me, they don’t look like they’re the same team,” West said. “I think that they’re terrific, but they lose a great player in James Harden, and that’s going to happen to a lot of teams today, and can they make up for the loss of him? I’m not sure.”
West didn’t share any thoughts on a potential Lakers-Spurs series.
The Lakers lead Utah by 1 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They trail Houston by 1 1/2 games for seventh place and Golden State by 2 1/2 games for sixth.
What about Miami?
West said he wouldn’t mind if Miami broke the NBA record of 33 consecutive victories set in 1971-72 by the Lakers, when West was a starting guard. The Heat has won 24 consecutive games.
“Honestly, I think they’ve got an incredible chance to do it,” West said. “I really do. And people say to me, ‘Does it bother you?’ Absolutely not. I think it’s great for the league and I’m delighted obviously for my friend Pat Riley to be able to maybe replicate this not only as an executive but as a player. It’s pretty special.
“If they would break it, my gosh, I think it would be a wonderful story. I have no problem with that.”
Bryant’s ankle stiffens
Kobe Bryant left a five-on-five scrimmage a little early Thursday because his sprained left ankle “stiffened,” Mike D’Antoni said.
The Lakers coach wasn’t concerned about Bryant’s availability Friday against Washington, saying, “He’ll be ready.”
Bryant did not talk to reporters, but Pau Gasol did after also going through the scrimmage.
Gasol said he would play limited minutes Friday while simultaneously trying to get in shape after missing 20 games because of a tear inside the bottom of his right foot. “It’s not good,” Gasol said of his conditioning. “But I’ll continue to work on it and it’ll continue to get better.”
For the first time since Jan. 30, Gasol and Bryant will be on the active roster with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace, the lineup that, “if we’re going to do any damage, has to happen,” D’Antoni said.
Gasol was injured Feb. 5 against the Brooklyn Nets. He was starting at the time because Howard was sidelined by a sore shoulder. D’Antoni wouldn’t say if Gasol would start immediately in place of Earl Clark.
Quick acceleration and deceleration are still somewhat problematic for Gasol, as is jumping. “But I can dunk still. I don’t need to jump much to dunk,” he said.
Times staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.