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NBA Opening Week's 13 Signs: Los Angeles Lakers' Title Defense in Jeopardy

Rich FernandesCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2016

NBA Opening Week's 13 Signs: Los Angeles Lakers' Title Defense in Jeopardy

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Since it’s inception 62 years ago, the NBA has been electrifying basketball fans across the country… and why not?  It is after all, an exciting league where amazing begins. 

    During this time, two teams have dominated the NBA like no other teams in any other sport, with the exception of the NHL’s Montreal Canadians and MLB’s New York Yankees.

    The Boston Celtics have an astounding 17 championship banners hanging from their rafters, while the L.A. Lakers have 16.  These two powerhouses have produced a combined 33 titles in 62 years leaving the rest of the league in the third world.

    If the defending champion Lakers are able to win again this year, it will not only mark their 2nd three-peat victory with Kobe-Wan Kenobi and company, but it will also signify a tie in the all time championships category with the Celtics at 17 apiece.

    It would be an understatement to say that there is a lot at stake for both these franchises this year, but can the Lakers really win again and match Boston’s championship dominance title for title?  They have 5 superstars in their primes or close to it in Pau Gasol, Lemar Odom, Ron Artest, and Kobe-Wan Kenobi. 

    This is truly a Big 5 that can execute defensive thrashings together with offensive explosions.  Compare this arsenal to the Miami Heat’s Big 3, whom are also still in their primes and the Boston Celtics Big 3, whose prime years have been left behind in the Jurassic period.

    Based upon the NBA's opening week and the Lakers solid 4-0 record, one could assume that it is difficult to establish an argument against the defending champions so early in the season, but not so fast. 

    There has been a dramatic change to the landscape of the NBA going into this season, and the enemies are waiting at the gate.  These provocateurs are bigger in their numbers, stronger than their former selves, salivating from the smell of blood, and are gunning for a showdown. 

    In the end, the result may bring about “The Big One”, the dreaded but expected catastrophe that will drop L.A. into the ocean once and for all.

    Consequently, it is this drastic upheaval within the NBA that will truly make a Lakers’ three-peat unlikely.   Can Kobe-Wan Kenobi summon "The Force" one last time before he disappears into the sunset?  I hope so because he's going to need it.

    Without further ado, here are 13 Signs from NBA Opening Week that the Los Angeles Lakers' Title Defense is in Jeopardy.

The Pacific Division Is a Cake Walk: L.A. Will Be Overconfident

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but it seems like the entire Pacific division is in rebuilding mode with the exception of the Lakers.

    NBA Opening Week

    The Lakers barely beat a Stoudemireless Phoenix Suns team (114-106) that is in the process of reinventing their game. 

    In their third win of the week, L.A. mauled the Golden State Warriors who were a one dimensional team without Stephen Curry in the lineup.  While the Lakers may have won that game even if they had to face Curry, it certainly would not have been as bad.  This is especially true, since the Lakers domination was also a one sided affair as Pau Gasol ran free for a ridiculous 34 points and 21 boards. 

    With the addition of Blake Griffin, the L.A. Clippers appear to be a team of the future.  Griffin has two double-doubles in his first two games in the NBA and just missed this feat in both his next two games.  The Clippers will not win a ton of games this year, but they just might cause havoc to an unsuspecting Lakers' unit.

    Season Outlook

    If the Lakers take their own division too lightly, they may lose more games than they should against these rebuilding teams in the Pacific Division.  This may invariably affect their expected first place seeding in the playoffs.

The Houston Rockets Are Just Getting Started

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but the Yao Ming mega monster is back. 

    NBA Opening Week

    The Lakers were lucky to escape with their lives with a win against the Houston Rockets.  While the Rockets have a 0-3 record, they will need a little time to rebuild their chemistry with their behemoth back in the lineup. 

    As it is, Houston is showing spurts of brilliant dominance that will take them a long way this season, if they can get it together for a whole four quarters. 

    Houston was kicking the Lakers collective butt before their game fell apart at the seams and it wasn’t because the Lakers started to dominate either.

    It won't be long before the Rockets show themselves to be a top 10 team in the NBA.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Southwest Division will improve dramatically once their game comes together.  When that happens, the Lakers will have to play their best.  Even if the Lakers come out on top, the Rockets will grind them to exhaustion affecting their future performances.

    Furthermore, the Rockets are a big trade away from becoming an NBA title contender.  That is, if their big man in the middle can remain healthy.

The Portland Trailblazers Are In for a Breakout Year

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but Brandon Roy is awesome, overwhelming, and remarkable.  Did I mention he’s also talented?  What’s more?  Roy is closer to His Airness’ Crown, ability wise than Kobe-Wan Kenobi ever was.  Look for the new Airness comparisons to begin in a year’s time.  Notice also that these comparisons will be between Roy and Jordan, and not Roy and Kobe.

    NBA Opening Week

    The Lakers will be lucky to escape with their lives when they go head-to-head with the Portland Trailblazers.  This team is so talented and has depth on the bench to boot, and what’s more?  They are healthy for a change.

    Marcus Camby is a solid rebounding veteran who is surrounded by young guns in Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller, and Nicolas Batum.

    The Trailblazers are 4-1 and have outscored their opponents 102-63 in the fourth quarter alone.  This includes their sole loss to the Chicago Bulls, where Portland outscored them 25-22 in the final quarter, but it was not enough to pull out the win.   

    The Trailblazers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 90-76 on Tuesday night as they should, becasue they are easily a top 10 team in the NBA.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Northwest Division will improve dramatically based on talent alone.  If Greg Oden can become half the man he was supposed to be, he will be a huge presence coming off the bench.  That is a big if from a former number one pick who has yet to play a game this year. 

    Even if the Lakers come out on top, the Trailblazers will grind them to exhaustion affecting their future performances. 

    The Trailblazers will cause havoc in the west, but they’re probably too young to make a serious title attempt.  Next year with some playoff experience will be a different story.

The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks Are Still in the Fold

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Don’t look now because perennial title contenders including the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks are still in the fold.

    NBA Opening Week

    The Lakers will be lucky to escape with their lives when they go head-to-head with their arch enemies whom include the Spurs and Mavericks.  Both these teams are talented with depth boot. 

    Both these teams have a 2-1 record during opening week and are currently top 10 teams in the NBA.

    Dirk Nowitzki’s window for getting a title is closing.  Tim Duncan’s window for adding to his haul is closing.  Both these guys are still amongst the top power forwards in the league.  Are they better than overrated Chris Bosh?  Absolutely.  Better than Pau Gasol?  Probably not at this stage of their careers, but they're not far off.      

    Will this be the year for them?  What is for sure is that the Lakers would be foolish to write these guys off.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Southwest Division always win their fair share of games and some will undoubtedly come against the Lakers. 

    Even if the Lakers come out on top, both the Spurs and Mavericks will grind them to exhaustion affecting their future performances. 

New Orleans Hornets and Chris Paul: Chemistry in Motion

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Don’t look now because superstar Chris Paul has taken the bull by the horns and is leading his team with absolute focus.  They look like legitimate title contenders.

    NBA Opening Week

    The Lakers will be lucky to escape with their lives when they go head-to-head with Chris Paul and his Hornets. 

    The Hornets whom have been assembled from spare parts in the offseason, have been able to improve their defense and their overall chemistry into an effective combat unit.

    Chris Paul and company are 3-0 to start the season and major producer and underrated superstar David West keeps on ticking.  All these wins have come against solid teams including the Spurs and Nuggets.

    Both the Hornets starters and its bench are working together superfluously as they have vaulted to top 10 status in the NBA.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Southwest Division look to repeat their amazing run of the 2007-08 season.  CP3 looks committed to the team without question. 

    Even if the Lakers come out on top, the Hornets will grind them to exhaustion affecting their future performances. 

Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder: The Knockout Punch?

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Don’t look now because superstar Kevin Durant is being dubbed by many as the best player in the league.  He’s mature, and has length as well as a lot of game, as the Lakers found out in the Western Conference Finals last year.

    NBA Opening Week

    The Lakers will be lucky to escape with their lives when they go head-to-head with Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder. 

    Durant is already leading the league in scoring and with LeBron James sharing the ball in Miami, he almost assuredly will win his 2nd scoring title in a row.

    Durant is a solid two way player who is surrounded by young guns in Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green.

    The Thunder are 2-1 to start the season with their only loss coming at the hands of the Utah Jazz.  They are a top 5 team in the NBA.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Northwest Division have already proven that they can go toe-to-toe with the Lakers.  This year they’re a bit older and wiser with playoff experience against the Lakers to boot.

    Will it be the Thunder that delivers the knockout punch to the Lakers this year?  If the Lakers want to make it to the championship game again, they will have to go through Kevin Durant and the Thunder. 

    Even if the Lakers come out on top, the Thunder will grind them to exhaustion affecting their future performances in the NBA finals. 

2010-11 NBA Finals Scenario #3: Chicago Bulls Beat L.A. Lakers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Don’t look now because the Chicago Bulls are humming on all cylinders without superstar Carlos Boozer. 

    NBA Opening Week

    Derrick Rose is showing in his second season that he is a legitimate superstar.  He is averaging 27.7 points; 8.7 assists; 5 rebounds and 1 blocked shot per game. 

    Joakim Noah has been a monster and has the potential to average a double-double throughout the season.  In three games, he is currently averaging 14.3 points and 15.3 rebounds per game.

    Luol Deng is showing his sniper capabilities by scoring a season high 40 points against the Portland Trailblazers, a very good team.

    The Bulls are 2-1 to start the season.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Central Division are young and explosive.  They are easily a top 10 team without Carlos Boozer in the lineup.  They will get their fair share of wins until he returns.   When he returns, look out!

    If the Thunder are unable to deliver the knockout punch to the Lakers in the Western Conference, at the very least they will have tired them out.  That might leave NBA fans with scenario #3, which has the Chicago Bulls sticking it to an exhausted L.A. Lakers team in the NBA Finals. 

2010-11 NBA Finals Scenario #2: The Miami Heat Will Beat the L.A. Lakers

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but the Miami Heat are as scary as advertised, we just didn’t want to listen. 

    NBA Opening Week

    Miami Thrice are simply awesome… or at least the Dwyane Wade and LeBron James parts of it are for sure.  That is, aside from game one’s loss against the Boston Celtics.

    Wade, who barely played a minute in the NBAs preseason, is showing doubters early that this is indeed his team.  He has been a monster of contribution from the field, in the paint, and in the clutch.  Where and when James and Bosh fail to be dominant, Wade has picked up the slack.

    LeBron James has been a king.  While he may not average his normally high point total, he contributes all around and across the board.  He is simply the most explosive scorer the league has seen since someone by the name of Michael Jordan.  He just might average that triple double that everyone’s been talking about.

    Chris Bosh, while not in the same solar system as his star studded teammates, has shown that he can be a very effective side kick and 3rd option on this contender.  This is hard news for those of us who don’t like to admit our teams can be beaten by a woman.

    The Heat have rolled over their competition to start the season at 4-1.  Granted, they have played two teams of real consequence including the Celtics (their only loss) and the Orlando Magic (an unbelievable blowout).

    Are we all about to become witnesses?  Lets hope not... but hope may not be enough.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Southeast Division are young and explosive.  They are easily a top five team without a real PG or center.  Breaking the Bulls record of 72 wins is still unlikely… however likely it is becoming every day.

    If the Thunder are unable to deliver the knockout punch to the Lakers in the Western Conference, at the very least they will have tired them out.  That might leave NBA fans with scenario #2, which has the Miami Heat sticking it to an exhausted L.A. Lakers team in the NBA finals. 

2010-11 NBA Finals Scenario #1: The Boston Celtics Will Beat the L.A. Lakers

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics have bolstered their center position with Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal.

    NBA Opening Week

    The Boston Celtics trounced the Miami Heat in surprising fashion and a rematch is now highly anticipated.

    Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal have bolstered a solid Kendrick Perkins at the center spot.  Sure these guys are old and way past their awesome primes, but they can be really effective coming off the bench.  During the season they will need a lot of rest so that they can help the Celtics win their 18th championship.

    Shaquille is already injured but that is to be expected, isn’t it?  As long as The Big Shamrock is ready for the playoffs.

    The Big Three may not be so big anymore either aside from Paul Pierce, but they can still contribute and play a major role. 

    Rajon Rondo is picking up from last season where he left off, showing us that he is indeed a superstar PG.  His efforts will undoubtedly help his team in the end.

    The Celtics have gone 3-1 to start the season with their only loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Their play has been lackluster, even in their wins.  Only time will tell if the regular season means anything to them.

    Season Outlook

    These boys from the Atlantic Division are old but still very deadly when they want to be.  They are easily a top five team that will probably come out of the East because of a much less intense schedule than the Lakers.

    If the Thunder are unable to deliver the knockout punch to the Lakers in the Western Conference, at the very least they will have tired them out.  That might leave NBA fans with scenario #1, which has the Boston Celtics sticking it to an exhausted L.A. Lakers team in the NBA finals. 

Center Andrew Bynum is Made of Glass

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but where is Andrew Bynum?

    NBA Opening Week

    Andrew Bynum is recovering from knee surgery and has not played yet in 2010-11.  This guy is so injury prone you just don’t know what to expect from him. 

    Season Outlook

    Bynum is a beast in the middle when he’s healthy.  No Bynum will spell disaster for the L.A. Lakers.  Will his knee heal properly?  The Lakers title hopes depend on it.

You Can Tell Ron Artest Isn’t Motivated This Year

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but Ron Artest doesn’t seem very serious.

    NBA Opening Week

    Ron Ron is already talking about giving away his ring.  Honestly, how much could a championship mean to him?

    So far this season Artest’s field goal percentage is pathetic and his defensive game is average for his standards.

    Season Outlook

    Ron Artest won it for the Lakers last year and got his first ring.  You cannot deny his huge defensive presence, but he’s talking about giving away his ring?

    Can you imagine Kobe or MJ talking about giving away their rings?  Clearly the focus is not there for Artest this year, which will be bad news for the Lakers.

Three Major Lakers Are Getting Old

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but three Lakers starters are reaching for the hair dye.

    NBA Opening Week

    Ron Artest has 11 years of NBA experience and his stellar years are behind him.

    Derek Fisher has 14 years of NBA experience and his stellar years are behind him.

    Kobe Bryant has 14 years of NBA experience and his stellar years are behind him.  He is still capable of playing at a very high level and has the ability to dominate games.  We have already seen much of that this season.

    At times though he has looked old, and he is recovering from knee surgery.  Kobe says he’s 100%, but it is a grueling schedule… will his knee hold up?

    Season Outlook

    Kobe-Wan Kenobi will have to summon “The Force” again this year if he hopes to add to his championship haul.

The Lakers Will Not Repeat in 2010-11 Because a Lockout is Looming

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Don’t look now, but the NBA players union and David Stern have drawn lines in the sand.

    NBA Opening Week

    Will there be a lockout this season?  As part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, David Stern wants to roll back NBA salaries by as much as 24%.

    Will the players allow this contraction to occur?  They might, but not without a long and bitter struggle.

    Season Outlook

    The season may get cut short and the players locked out, or this could happen at the end of the season.  Whatever the case, it is likely to affect the mental play all NBA players including the L.A. Lakers.

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