So now that the Los Angeles Lakers have added Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison to their existing nucleus of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, the rest of the NBA might as well lay down and let the presumptive champions waltz their way to the Larry O'Brien Trophy...right?
Not so fast. There's a reason they play the games, you know, and not just because the folks who own the teams and the league arenas have bills to pay. Though that's certainly a major factor.
The fact is championships aren't won on paper; they're earned on the court, and as of right now, the best the Lakers can do is count themselves among a select swath of squads with shiny aspirations.
To be sure the Purple and Gold deserve the proliferation of praise they've garnered in the wake of their blockbuster pickups.
They were a solid team last season even amidst Kobe's bum wrist, Lamar Odom's ouster, Pau's daily trade distractions, Andrew Bynum's inconsistency, World Peace's war-like outbursts, and not to mention Mike Brown's attempt to fill Phil Jackson's shoes and establish his own system without the benefit of a full training camp or much in-season practice time on account of the lockout.
All of which is to say, it's only fitting that optimism would be on the rise in the City of Angels this season. But before the Lakers get to planning their next victory parade down Figueroa St., they'd be wise to prepare for these seven teams, all of whom will be gunning to keep the league's newest collection of All-Stars from scaling the standings.