We all have seen this sequel play out in the National Basketball Association once before.
A team goes out and signs a collection of superstars. Media and fans go overboard with predicting big things, only to be let down by a huge disappointment.
The Los Angeles Lakers, who signed former Phoenix Suns superstar point guard Steve Nash to a free-agent deal early in the summer, rolled the dice on Thursday. In a four-team trade, Los Angeles made a move and acquired six-time All-Star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic.
Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is the latest superstar big man to join the Lakers in quest of winning a title; joining Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as superstar centers who left their former teams to join the Lakers.
Each won a title with Los Angeles.
We all know that a team with an overabundance of stars sometimes does not work out. Two memories in recent years come to mind. One of them involves Los Angeles.
The 2004 Lakers brought in Karl Malone and Gary Payton to join O'Neal and Bryant in hopes of leading the Lakers to their fourth title in five years. Fans around the country all but delivered the Larry O'Brien Trophy to Los Angeles before the season even started.
And although the Lakers won the Pacific Division and finished with the league's fourth-best record (56-26) that season, they failed to win it all when it mattered.
The Pistons, who were swept in the Eastern Conference finals a year earlier by New Jersey, were looking to make amends.
Detroit was a much younger team than the Lakers, and it showed in the series. The Pistons captured the first game and a split in Los Angeles before returning home for three straight games. The Lakers' old age proved to be too much, as they lost the final three games by 41 points combined.
While the Pistons had youth on their side, the Lakers were the opposite. Both Malone and Payton were past their prime, and O'Neal was a 12-year veteran at the time.
The Lakers knew that in order to reclaim their status as one of the league's best, they had to get younger. Malone retired at the end of the season, and O'Neal and Payton were traded to Miami and Boston respectively.
The other star-laden team that failed to win a title were the 2011 Miami Heat.
James, who vehemently claimed that Miami would win four, five, six, seven or maybe even eight titles, was mocked by everyone when the Heat succumbed to the Dallas Mavericks (4-2) in the finals two seasons ago.
Yes, James made amends this season by winning his first championship over the Thunder, claiming MVP honors by dominating Oklahoma City.
Howard, who has been the best center in the game for the past couple of seasons, will attempt to bring Los Angeles its 17th league title. The question is, can he do it?
Nash will turn 39 during the season, and Howard is coming off back surgery—which caused him to miss the entire 2012 playoffs. Unable to participate in this year's Olympic Games, Howard hopes to be ready at the start of the 2013 season.
Howard is definitely an upgrade over former center Andrew Bynum.
Even though Bynum came into his own this past season and became an All-Star, he was often inconsistent and repeatedly put the Lakers in a bad spot with his constant emotional outbursts.
Bynum had been on the trading block throughout the season and Los Angeles was finally able to trade him. As part of the four-team deal that brought Howard to Los Angeles, Bynum is now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
In the Western Conference, only two teams appear to be standing in the Lakers' way: The Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs.
Oklahoma City is much younger, and with a year's experience in the finals behind it, OKC will look to make the next move toward winning the title. Meanwhile, the Spurs—who tied the Chicago Bulls with the league's best record (50-16)—will be much improved also.
However, Los Angeles appears to not only be the front-runner in the West, but overall as well.
It remains to be seen what is going to happen with power forward Pau Gasol. Like Bynum, he too has been on the trading block all summer, but now with Howard on board, another question is, will the Lakers trade him?
A frontcourt duo of Gasol and Howard could mean big trouble for opponents this season. Bryant and a healthy Nash could bring huge dividends.
Without question, the Lakers acquiring Howard changes the entire landscape of the National Basketball Association. Los Angeles may have just given itself a leg up on everyone else in the league. And although it is too early to tell what is going to happen, you cannot help but like the Lakers' chances.
Showtime just may be around the corner for the Lakers once again. Then again, we have seen this act before.
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