What a long, strange trip it's been. After a season marred with high expectations, disappointment, freak injuries, doubt, embarrassment, bad losses, team tragedy, the fall of the franchise face, and an impressive 28-12 run to nab that 7th playoff spot (thus avoiding the Oklahoma City Thunder juggernaut that's about to chew through Houston), the Lakers are at an odd crossroads. There's relief for salvaging a modicum of respectability by playing pretty good basketball to climb above .500 and reach the playoffs after a disastrous start. There's apprehension about injured star Kobe Bryant's future, both with the team and in the NBA. There's hope due to the resurgent play of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol down the stretch. Now there's the consternation of facing a 58-24 Spurs team that has something to prove.