Los Angeles Lakers A Long Way From Repeating

Despite Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s utterance that the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorites to repeat as NBA champions, Kobe Bryant’s team shouldn’t just be handed the trophy now. The road as a defending champion is always longer and more arduous than the previous one.

There are more expectations and thus more pressure. The mentality of fans is “If the Lakers won the title last year and kept every significant piece on their roster, why can’t they do it again?”

The answer is twofold. For one thing, a bull's eye is inevitably placed on the back of each defending champion. It’s now squarely affixed between the numbers of the purple and gold jerseys. Especially on the back of Kobe Bryant’s No. 24.

Secondly, the rest of the league is only getting better. Major threats to the Lakers supremacy exist throughout the league.

In the Western Conference, the young Oklahoma City Thunder have their eyes set on knocking the Lakers from their perch atop the conference.

Oklahome City general manager Sam Presti has done a marvelous job drafting and developing young players. He now has an All-Star nucleus in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. When Wade and LeBron James teamed up in Miami, Durant may very well have become the preseason favorite for the MVP.

In the wake of the Lakers triumph, it’s tough to remember this Thunder team almost eliminated the Lakers from the playoffs. After going 50-32 in the regular season and more than doubling its win total from the 2008-09 season, Durant’s team almost took the Lakers to a seventh game. Instead, the Thunder failed to secure a victory in the sixth and lost the series 4-2.

What really should worry Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and the rest of the Lakers is the fact that the Thunder have only gotten better. 

Durant has an additional year of experience and i...

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