When the 2011-12 NBA season ended, the Lakers looked like an old, beaten down former contender that stayed in the ring a bit too long. The Oklahoma City Thunder dominated Kobe Bryant and Co. in the second round of the playoffs, exposing a team that looked old, slow and sorely lacking depth.
Just three months later, as Labor Day approaches and training camp is less than 60 days away, these same Lakers have reason to feel optimistic that 2012-13 may well be their year to take back the title and hang another banner in the rafters of Staples Center.
So what happened over the course of the summer to change L.A. from a team destined for the scrap heap of hoops into a team of possible destiny and a world championship come next June?
How can an aging team that finished 41-25 in the regular season, was seeded third in the playoffs and had the stuffing squeezed out of them by OKC last spring be expected to contend for a title the following year?
How could the Lakers, who started the offseason way over the salary cap, with no first-round draft pick and only a mini mid-level exception to use as bait for a trade or free-agent signing, go from being the team that Magic Johnson suggested be "blown up" to one that today is the envy of the NBA?
While fans and critics of the Lakers wondered aloud about the commitment to greatness by its players, coaches, management and ownership, it appears now that the franchise took the time to draw up a flexible plan of attack—complete with audibles—that would address most of the Lakers' needs and give them an opportunity to legitimately challenge OKC, San Antonio, Miami and any other contender for the crown in 2012-13.
There are a number of encouraging signs for the Lakers of next season, not the least of which is a burning desire by Kobe Bryant to grab a world championship ring for his other hand. Let's examine what other signs point to a stellar campaign by the new look Lakers.