The Los Angeles Lakers began defense of their title yesterday at home against the New Orleans Hornets, a team they should dispose of in four or five games. The Lakers also started the series more than a little banged up, battered, bruised and out of sorts. So out of sorts that they lost the first game, 109-100.
So what else is new? These are the Lakers after all and drama seems to follow them around like a little puppy tagging alongside its owner in search of his or her next meal.
Phil Jackson has never been one to use a lot of players during the post season but he may have to this year, simply because of injuries and illness. Steve Blake could be sidelined for the entire first series against the Hornets as he recuperates from a rare adult outbreak of chicken pocks.
Andrew Bynum, Matt Barnes and Ron Artest all were suffering from various knee and leg ailments heading into Game One. And Kobe Bryant created a distraction after uttering a homophobic slur directed at an official in the Lakers' home game last week against the Spurs. He quickly apologized the next day and since then he and the team have been proactive in trying to diffuse the uproar the comment caused in various circles around the country.
Still, these are the two time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and this is their time of year. The regular season was a warm up for the main attraction. There’s a reason most experts continue to favor the Lakers (Vegas included) to win a third consecutive title: They have the experience, poise, length and depth to win it all.
The Lakers also have a couple of X-factors no other team can claim. Will it be enough to three-peat. Let's take a look.