Now that the NBA's stranglehold on Christmas Day has passed, the league will once again battle for relevancy during that oft-overlooked hoops period between the BCS bowl games and the Super Bowl.
Despite another impressive December 25 showing, commissioner David Stern's like will once again be relegated to second-tier status in the professional sports specter.
It's an unfortunate reality given that the 2012-13 season has already been chocked full of exciting headline stories.
And none of those stories has garnered more media attention or more passionate debate among basketball purists than that of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers dominated offseason headlines with their acquisitions of future Hall of Famers Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Their early-season struggles (which cost former head coach Mike Brown his job just five games into the season) reigned as the most compelling basketball story out of the gate.
And now that the team has returned a healthy Nash and Pau Gasol to its lineup, L.A.'s front-page tyranny continues. With a five-game winning streak in tow, the Lakers have started appearing as the championship contenders that scouts, analysts and fans anticipated following their offseason heist.
But just how strong are their title chances? And now that their near full strength, where exactly does this team rank among the greatest in the game?
*All statistics used in this article are accurate as of 12/25/2012.