Kobe Bryant isn't the only one on the Lakers who has "Mamba"… (Craig Lassig / EPA )
The Lakers have played one-third of their games and would be on the road if the playoffs began today.
They might want to change that between now and April 26.
Maybe the Black Mamba was playing possum, but Kobe Bryant all but conceded the top two spots in the Western Conference, saying the Lakers have endured too many alterations in the off-season to be atop the West.
"Because of the changes in the players and so forth, you just can't come out of the gates and fight for a 1 seed or a 2 seed," he said. "That's just not realistic, but we want to build and get better and go into the playoffs with momentum."
The Lakers are 13-9 overall and a dreadful 2-7 on the road. They have an opportunity to improve the latter with a six-game trip beginning Friday in Denver.
Though they may falter on the road and remain in the middle of the playoff pack, Bryant didn't seem overly concerned looking ahead to May.
"I don't know too many people that are comfortable playing us, know what I mean?" he said, smiling.
He hoped the Lakers could snare some momentum over the next couple of months, gradually improving as the regular season winds down.
"If you figure things out going into the postseason and you get a good rhythm, that's what you want, especially in a short season," he said.
Bryant was colorful in a variety of areas Wednesday, ebullient and thought-provoking in answering reporters' questions.
He didn't seem concerned about the Lakers' future, but he definitely wanted them to rebound much, much better. He didn't even need to point out the recent imbalance in Minnesota, the Timberwolves taking 24 offensive rebounds to seven for the Lakers.
"Put bodies on bodies," he said. "We're not going to jump over people so you can't just turn around and watch the ball. You've got to box people out. We've really been getting our butts kicked on the offensive glass."
Bryant also took pride in helping create a nickname for rookie guard Andrew Goudelock, who has averaged 11.5 points the last four games. Bryant calls him "Mini Mamba."
"He's got that grit, man," Bryant said. "He's got that will to perform well and score the ball. And he's extremely aggressive. That's what mambas are. He's definitely got that DNA."
Bryant then weighed in on the rivalry with the Boston Celtics, who are off to an 11-10 start. The teams play next Thursday in Boston.
Even though the Celtics and Lakers were non-factors in last season's playoffs, Bryant said the rivalry had not lost anything.
"Not to me," he said. "The enjoyment I get out of it is that when they assembled the Big Three, they still only have one championship to our two. It's still fun."
Bryant even judged who had the better dunk this week: LeBron James over Chicago guard John Lucas III, or Blake Griffin over Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins.
"You've got to be kidding," Bryant said. "I've known Lucas since he was, like, 10. He's 5-11. Blake's dunk was unreal. That's video game [stuff]."