The NBA’s Eastern Conference is wrapped up. The Heat has it. Frankly, no one in his or her right mind would argue against that. But with all of the movement, particularly Dwight Howard to the Lakers and James Harden to the Rockets (from the Thunder), the Western Conference comes down to one team: The Lakers.

I’m not saying they are the favorites. They’re not. This is still the Thunder’s conference, even without Harden . . . who looked damn good in a Rockets jersey, by the way. I bet the Thunder didn’t want to watch replays of that game. It was the Harden show. I digress. Serge Ibaka is developing quickly and has the potential to be the next third member of the Thunder’s big three. Jeremy Lamb will be a great bench player. As always, Brian Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be unstoppable in transition. The young whippersnappers love to run.

But the Lakers have what it takes to run the table. Maybe not in transition, but just about everywhere else on the court.

Sure, the Lake show is 0-2 as of Thursday, but why read into two games? The season is over 80 games long. A team with Kobe Bryant alone, regardless of Steve Nash and Howard, will win. But then again, having Nash and Howard helps.

There’s just too much talent on the team for this to fail. Their size in the backcourt will dominate with a little chemistry. Even Pau Gasol has shown that he is hardening up, most notably during last season’s playoffs. We have yet to really see how Nash’s ability to create open shots will work with Bryant and the gang, but if the flashes of brilliance become consistent in the team’s play, then this offense can be dangerous.

Note: they have Bryant, arguably the best player since Michael Jordan.

If you saw the cover of Sports Illustrated, you would see that they made Bryant an afterthought. Howard stood next to Nash, and Bryant was not pictured. Only his name was featured, and it was in tiny print in the bottom left corner.

Don’t let the picture make you think that this isn’t Bryant’s team anymore. He’s old but he’s still relentless, and one of the biggest reasons Nash is around is to set up Bryant with open jumpers, so that his old knees don’t have to work so hard.

That’s typical of L.A. The media (those jerks!) will spin the importance of players as they wish. The headline in L.A. was the new additions, but the core is still there. Bryant will always sweat blood until he is a winner.

All they have to do is get it together by the end of the season. It’s easy to forget that you only need enough wins to make the playoffs. The Lakers will get them. The most important wins will be the ones that they get in the playoffs. So forget the 0-2 start.

Henry McKenna

Sports Editor

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