Never one to lack confidence, Kobe Bryant is certain that the Los Angeles Lakers — currently in 9th place, and trailing the surging Houston Rockets by 3.5 games in the standings with just 27 ballgames remaining — will qualify for the postseason. Once there, Kobe says that he’s not worried about going up against any of the Western Conference powers. From a Q&A with SI: “Dwight (Howard) hasn’t been the happiest of campers. How about your rep for being tough on teammates? Is that part of it? Bryant: ‘Look, I talk to him all the time. In his ear all the time, not so much now but early on. Pushing him quite a bit. That’s just how I am.’ [...] Can you get this done? And is it hard that after winning five championships you’re battling to make the playoffs? Bryant: ‘It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver … whoever. I have zero nervousness about that.’ OK, that’s you, who has never been known for lack of confidence. Bryant: ‘But I’m not talking about just me. Us as a group. We will make the playoffs. And we will compete. And part of the reason I have that confidence is the Miami game [a 107-97 loss in Miami on Feb. 10]. We had control of the game. That was no fluke. We were playing very, very well. We were reading the defense, making the extra pass. OK, they have two great players [LeBron James and Dwayne Wade] who scored eight straight buckets and took control of the game. But we were right there. We can do it.’”