Honest NBA fans of any teams will tell you that the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are the odds-on favorites to reach the 2013 NBA Finals, especially since it seems as though everyone is now a fan of the Heat or Thunder.
The initial shock and amazement of the trade (h/t ESPN) that brought center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers has begun to wear off, and left in its wake are general disbelief of and the familiar, disgusted response to the fact that the Lakers were once again able to pull off the unthinkable.
Fellow B/R columnist Robert Kleeman recently penned an articulate, heartfelt reactionary piece that should resonate with any NBA fan not associated with the Lakers, Thunder or Heat.
Kleeman's article illustrates the feeling of desperation that must be permeating throughout the NBA, even though there was little chance before the Howard trade that any other team could supplant the Heat or Thunder in their respective conferences.
Each of those teams would have been strong contenders in the postseason, but they wouldn't have been considered title favorites.
The Lakers may not be title locks in 2013, but adding Howard to a roster that includes Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash puts them in the thick of the conversation.
And back in their familiar position as the NBA's most-hated team.
Some of the resentment towards the Lakers comes from the fact that many of the team's fans have long felt that Howard coming to Los Angeles was simply a matter of fate.
Lakers fans have been picturing Howard in a purple and gold uniform long before he listed Los Angeles as a preferred destination, and they have held firm in their belief despite every imaginable statement to the contrary.
The fact that the Lakers were able to land Howard in spite of the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement is one thing, but managing to seal the deal without depleting their roster is something else.
Keeping Gasol in the fold was just as important as securing Howard, and the Lakers were able to strengthen their bench, as well, by signing Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Lakers fans have been described as some of the most arrogant in all of sports, but after completing this predestined coup, why shouldn't they be?
The Lakers have built their legacy of greatness and hate by consistently making moves to ensure the championship relevance of the franchise, and, as always, it begins with a transcendent player in the paint.
With Nash and Howard on the roster, the current Lakers are a much better team than the 2011-12 version, but that doesn't mean they have surpassed Oklahoma as conference favorites.
But they sure are better than everyone else.