Can LA Lakers Play Western Conference Spoiler All Season?

The Los Angeles Lakers used to be the hunted, but this new hunter's role appears to be fitting quite well.

With an aging roster and a hobbled Kobe Bryant (Achilles) still missing in action, expectations couldn't have been lower outside the locker room.

After scoring a pair of early season victories over on-paper title contenders (the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets), though, the Lakers have started to shift those projections. The playoffs might be out of the question, but could this team actually keep other teams from reaching their goals?

Really, what are these Lakers: pushovers or overlooked?


The Good Times

For LA fans, that probably means those moments of nostalgia remembering the team's rich history. While last season can only be described as a disaster, 2012-13 also marked the team's eighth straight postseason appearance—a stretch that includes two league titles and a third NBA Finals appearance.

But those aren't the good times we're focusing on here. Rather, what's been far more fascinating is the way this current group has thrived as a spoiler.

It all started on opening night, 2013-14's first round of the intracity fight for control of Los Angeles.

It felt like the basketball world had entered the Twilight Zone. The Clippers, lovable losers in seasons past with an emphasis on the losing part, waltzed into the Staples Center as one of the offseason's biggest winners.

Chris Paul was back with a new five-year contract securing his future with the franchise. A pair of new shooters (J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley) flanked Paul on the backcourt, and a former NBA champion (Doc Rivers) took over the most prominent perch on the Clippers bench.

The Lakers, on the other hand, limped into the contest with a roster that was long in years and short on talent. Bryant was out. Steve Nash and Pau Gasol were presen...

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