Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are 9-12 and rapidly losing sight of a high playoff… (Paul Buck / EPA )
It's early December and the Lakers, at 9-13, are already nine games behind the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs (18-4). What would it take for the Lakers to win the Western Conference?
For starters, the Lakers need Steve Nash and Pau Gasol back in the lineup.
San Antonio has won 81.8% of its games this season, which projects to 67 wins on the year. If the Spurs continue to win at their current rate, the Lakers would have to go finish the season 58-2 to tie.
Should San Antonio win just 70% of its remaining games, winning 60 games wouldn't be enough for the Lakers, who show no signs of going 51-9.
The Oklahoma City Thunder at 17-4 are also out of the Lakers' reach, while the Memphis Grizzlies (14-4) would need to drop off significantly. The Clippers (15-6) and even Golden State Warriors (14-7) may have already locked in a better record than the Lakers.
The fifth-seeded Warriors may be in range, but if they keep winning at a 66.7% clip, the Lakers would need to finish at 46-14 to overtake them.
If Golden State suddenly became a mediocre team and won about half of its remaining games to finish 44-38, the Lakers would need to win 35 of their final 60 to catch up.
The Lakers may be looking at the sixth seed as the most realistic target after their dismal start.
The last three teams in the West's top eight include the Utah Jazz (12-10), Dallas Mavericks (11-10) and Denver Nuggets (11-11), all within range.
The Jazz have beaten the Lakers twice already this season but the Lakers are just three games behind Utah.
The season is still young enough to salvage, but the Lakers can't afford to lose another seven out of 10. They need to start winning and winning regularly.
The margin for error is already unforgivably slim and home-court advantage in the playoffs may already be out of the question.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.