Los Angeles Lakers: No Panic In LA, Lakers Will Be Western Favorite In April

Back to back losses to the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets have gotten the concerns rolling around the defending champion Lakers, but caution should be taken before stripping away their status as the best team in the NBA.

Yes they are a little thin on the inside without Andrew Bynum (don't expect Theo Ratliff and Derrick Caracter to be getting too many minutes come spring), and yes their bench play can be very up and down. In addition, there have been whispers about Kobe Bryant injury concerns and there is always the chance for a Ron Artest blow up.

However, most teams in the league would love to have the same problems that the Lakers have. Over the past three season, the Lakers have played elite ball and have learned to pace themselves throughout the regular season.

A lot of credit can go to Head Coach Phil Jackson, who is truly the master of keeping his teams fresh enough come playoff time. Phil is going for his fourth three-peat, so he has some experience with teams like this.

The veterans on this team such as Bryant and Derek Fisher will know how to do this for themselves and we will likely see a different Fisher than we saw in last year's playoffs. Lamar Odom and Ron Artest will be unleashed strategically while Jackson will have to find time to keep Pau Gasol fresh.

The offseason acquisitions of Matt Barnes and Steve Blake should help take some of the pressure off the starters. Although Bynum's minutes will be limited after his return, he will still help out the team.

Despite this, the Lakers do know the importance of home court advantage in the playoffs and will certainly be aiming to secure that.

Although a couple teams are having some especially hot starts in the West, there are very few teams that are equipped to challenge the Lakers for their conference title.

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