The playoffs may be a reasonable goal for the Lakers, but if they get in they will do it the hard way.
The Lakers will play 24 of their last 38 games on the road, starting with the five-game trip that kicks off today in Houston. They continue through Atlanta, New Jersey, Detroit and Cleveland before returning home to face Utah on Feb. 15.
So far the Lakers are 7-10 on the road.
"It's going to be hard, no doubt about it," said Coach Frank Hamblen, when asked Saturday about the team's playoff drive. "I discussed it with the players; we're just going to take it one game at a time and see how we do.
"We've gone through the light part of our schedule, and we've done it without Kobe [Bryant]. We hung in there pretty good. But now is the real test for us, this trip in particular, with five games in eight nights."
The last time the Lakers played in Houston, Rudy Tomjanovich was being honored for his service to the Rockets and welcomed back to coaching in Los Angeles. But Tomjanovich resigned from the Lakers for health reasons last week, giving the team yet another hurdle along with the injuries currently idling Bryant, Devean George and Vlade Divac.
The Lakers are third in the Pacific Division and have the eighth (and last) playoff slot. When asked if he could envision where his team could finish, Hamblen didn't want to go that far.
"Our goal is to make the playoffs," he said.
Guard Chucky Atkins agreed with Hamblen about getting into the playoffs.
But Atkins went on to say it was time for the Lakers to establish what kind of team they were going to be in the second half of the season -- and beyond.
"I want to see us grow as a team," Atkins said. "I want to see us be hard-nosed, tough-skinned and tough-minded. Because we're going to be facing everything right now, facing some pretty good teams on the road.
"We have shown at times we can do that. And then at other times we fall apart.... I don't know how close we are to being the [tough] team. We've been so up and down. But I think this road trip can really tell us where we're headed. And we need some wins."
at Houston, 12:30 p.m. PST, Channel 7
Site -- Toyota Center.
Radio -- KLAC (570).
Records -- Lakers 24-20, Rockets 29-23.
Record vs. Rockets -- 2-0.
Update -- Devean George and Vlade Divac will travel with the team, but neither is ready to play. Both worked out Saturday, but Divac (back) is still running slowly, and a bone bruise in the right foot continues to hobble George. Rookie guard Tony Bobbitt sprained his left ankle Saturday and left on crutches. He is considered day-to-day.... The Lakers are 6-0 on Sundays.... The Lakers will wear Minneapolis throwback jerseys today, like the ones they wore for a game last season.