Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles Lakers Saw Rise of Oklahoma City Thunder Coming

Two years ago, Pau Gasol tipped in a Kobe Bryant miss to give the Los Angeles Lakers a close victory in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder were a young team with an extremely bright future. With names like Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, this team was ready to ignite. 

After unexpectedly taking the Lakers to six games that year, it was pretty clear that pretty soon there would be a changing of the guard.

As the Lakers got older and the Thunder's core hit their prime, the Lakers domination of the Western Conference was going to hit a halt because of the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There is no doubt that Kobe Bryant and the Lakers saw this 4-1 series loss to the Thunder coming. You can point out all the deficiencies regarding the Lakers you want, but there is no hiding the fact that the Thunder were clearly the better, faster, stronger, more athletic and younger team.

The fact that the Lakers came close to winning three games had they not collapsed in Games 2 and 4 shows that the team isn't that far away from surpassing Oklahoma City. That being said, it's pretty clear that the fact that the Thunder even came back in those games exemplifies the team's superiority over everyone in the Western Conference.

The Thunder have used their playoff experience from the last two seasons to really come together and grow as a team. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook know that it's their time to shine and not even Kobe is going to stop them.

To a certain extent, Kobe understands this, too.

He knows that he's getting older and his window is getting smaller. He was well aware two years ago when the Lakers eked past the Thunder that this team was probably going to be the one that was going to give his Lakers the most problems in the future.

And why wouldn't they be giving the Lakers trouble?

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Los Angeles Lakers