NBA Preview – Western Conference

I feel like the lockout didn’t even happen.  Couldn’t be more excited for opening day in the NBA this weekend.  We’re in for a thrilling and fast-paced season with plenty of story lines and more than enough phenomenal players.  This is part 1 of a two-parter previewing the NBA season, purely addressing the makeup of the Western Conference.  Find out why I think the Clips are going to be the second best team in the West this season.

Can the Lakers Still Contend?

The buzz around the NBA community all off-season was that Kobe Bryant has been voraciously preparing for this season because everyone has been saying that he had lost a step.  In his last press conference at the end of last season he told everyone how excited he was to start preparing so that he could prove he was still the best.

I’m not going to pretend like I don’t love stuff like this.  Kobe is one of the ten best players of all-time and seeing a guy like that perform in ways that no one else can is unbelievably enjoyable to watch and talk about.  You don’t have to like him.  I’ve never been a big fan of Kobe and the way that he handles himself, but as a sports fan, I love the fact that he is willing to offer up his firstborn child to win a championship.  That’s why we loved watching Jordan and Bird, and that’s why we love watching Tom Brady and Tiger Woods.  It doesn’t matter if you like them or love them, we will be forever interested in seeing what they do in that big moment because we know that they just might do something that we’ve never seen before.

That’s why seeing the Lakers (and David Stern) completely screw up this off-season has been so depressing.  Although I believe Kobe has actually lost a step, I still think he’s capable of being the alpha dog on a championship team, and I desperately want to see him try to take on Lebron and Wade in a seven game series.  Here’s what we clearly know: With the current makeup of this Lakers roster, they are going to be worse than they were last year.  There’s no way around it.  They obviously were getting older and slower, and the Mavs absolutely exposed them for what they were last year in the playoffs.  Well, the Lakers traded their third best player (Odom) to the team that rolled them in the playoffs and replaced him with….ummm….Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy (yikes).

If Kobe was playing for the Toronto Raptors right now (Current Starting 5 – Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani – check out the bench if you want to continue laughing… http://espn.go.com/nba/team/depth/_/name/tor/toronto-raptors) he’d still figure out a way to get that team into the playoffs.  Because of the state of the Lakers right now, maybe we’re in for another “screw this, I’m going to drop 50 every night” kind of a season from Kobe, which may be even more entertaining.  Having said that, unless the Lakers figure out a way to get Dwight Howard on the roster (seriously, give up Gasol and Bynum…you’ll immediately be better and be a title contender in 2012-2013…think how good Lebron, Bosh, and Wade were with a team full of “dudes”…the same thing would happen in LA with Kobe and Howard) they are a middle of the pack playoff team in the West.  OKC, Dallas, and the Clips are all going to be better, and the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Nuggets are going to be competitive.  On the bright side, maybe we get to see Kobe drop 81 again….

Image: http://freddyo.com/kobe-bryant-slapped-with-100k-fine-for-homophobic-remarks/black-entertainment-television/attachment/kobe-bryant/