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The Real NBA Season Has Started

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Now that the real NBA season has started, those Laker flowers have started to bloom. At the Dodger game Friday night the evidence of the germination was seen as several cars were seen with the Laker flags flying.

But it’s different this year. Last year the entire city was frothing at the Lakers being the one-seed in the Western Conference. At the beginning of last season it was expected to be more of the same - middle of the playoff pack and maybe with a prayer the Lakers could go far. But with the great play of center Andrew Bynum and the acquisition of Pau Gasol after Bynum went down, the Lakers emerged from the tough Western Conference with the one-seed by one game over the New Orleans Hornets.

After getting to the NBA Finals last season it was Championship or bust mentality this season for not only the team but the fans. As the Lakers dominated everyone (with the notable exception of the Orlando Magic) it was no surprise that they would again be the one-seed in the West. In fact this season they led the second seed by 11 games.

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So it will take a little while to for the Laker flowers to bloom. Whether that’s a good thing or not is just a matter of personal taste.

It’s really hard to be objective about the Lakers here in Los Angeles. All we see is purple and gold and the Larry O’Brien trophy. So I asked my coworker who is a die-hard Detroit Pistons fan. I figured he could be more objective about this than I could since his Pistons have absolutely no chance of going anywhere in the playoffs. He agreed with me - there’s no way the Lakers will find any competition in the West.

The Lakers first round matchup with the Utah Jazz is interesting. Here is a team on paper that should be really tough. With Deron Williams as one the elite point guards, Mehmet Okur a tough big man to guard since he can knock down threes, Carlos Boozer with his physical presence this Jazz team shouldn't be an eight-seed. But with Boozer out much of the season and Okur in and out with injuries this Jazz team just hasn't had the cohesion. Also, as Mark Stein of ESPN.com noted, the contract status of Okur, Boozer and Paul Millsap has caused tension in the locker room.

This was evident in the final game of the season at Staples Center on Tuesday when Utah fell to the Lakers 125-112. In fact in their last four losses the Jazz had given up 130, 105, 118 and 125 points. The only win was against the Clippers at home in the game before the Lakers loss.

So do the Lakers have anything to fear? If they believe in the hype and come out soft, then they have a lot to fear. But after watching the Lakers demolish the Denver Nuggets in four straight games to open up the playoffs last season, I don't see this happening.

The Lakers have a healthy Bynum who has come back nicely from his knee injury. Trevor Ariza has been healthy all season and should be the difference maker from last season's playoff run. While the bench has been sketchy at best in the stretch, with Lamar Odom back to anchor them their production should be improved.

Hell, we all know what the Lakers can do. And in the first round, I don't expect there to be many problems. Lakers will win in five games losing game three, the first game in Salt Lake City.

Some miscellaneous notes. Every 60-win Phil Jackson team both as a player and head coach has gone on to win the NBA title. Also with 65 wins, the Lakers need 16 more to reach the ultimate goal. That would be a total of 81 wins. You make the connection.

Game 1 will be at the Staples Center at Noon. TV: ABC. Radio: AM 570 KLAC.

AP Photo/Chris Carlson