Super Squads And Other NBA Stories

New Lakers guard Steve Nash drives past Utah Jazz guard Mo Williams. AP photo

The 2012-13 NBA regular season begins in just a week (Oct. 30). And while last year’s truncated schedule, Linsanity, the Thunder making the leap and the Miami Heat achieving their only acceptable outcome made for some amazing drama, the upcoming season has some of the best story lines I can remember.

The most interesting, and the one I know is closest to many of your hearts, is how this new Los Angeles Lakers super squad will jell and, ultimately, contend with the other super squads in a quest for an NBA title.

Now, I can’t say that I have much love for the Lakers. I also wouldn’t say I’m anti-Laker. But let’s face it, they can be pretty annoying. The late-arriving crowds, the persona of entitlement, it’s a franchise that seems to be genuinely surprised when it doesn’t win a championship.

In a way, that’s a good thing. High standards keep teams moving forward. But coming from a Knicks fan – a team that has equivalent resources, but hasn’t won a championship since 1973 – I’m sure you can imagine how that might be a bit grating.

It always seemed imminent that Dwight Howard would be a Laker. No matter how many reportedly poor phone conversations he had with Kobe Bryant, the only logical step was for Howard to wind up in the purple and gold. However, there were two major surprises that happened as the Lakers revamped and reloaded: Acquiring Howard didn’t cost them Pau Gasol, and they also managed to get one of the best point guards ever.

Yeah, the move that broke many hearts around the league was the July 5 news that two-time league MVP Steve Nash was headed to La-La Land.

Was I bitter about it because Nash was also close to a deal sending him to New York? Possibly.

But more than anything, it feels, well, icky to see Nash in a Laker jersey. He’s had so many memorable moments against L.A. as a member of the Phoenix Suns when those two teams were battling one another for Western Conference supremacy. Now he’s switched sides.

Nash, despite his personal accomplishments, has never reached an NBA Finals, despite playing on some very exciting and successful teams. I can’t blame him for leaving a rebuilding Phoenix squad. He deserves a shot at a ring, which would have been impossible had he stayed with the Suns.

Still, this is icky.

But moving past that aspect, the Lakers are now among the three teams most likely to hoist the title in June, along with Miami and Oklahoma City. The Lakers, unlike the Heat and Knicks and other recent teams that have decided to combine superstars, have actually done so in a logical manner. They could very well have four future Hall of Famers in their starting lineup, all playing their natural positions.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James play basically the same role, but managed to win a title on talent alone. The Knicks have a superstar frontcourt with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, but Anthony has been most effective at power forward, where Stoudemire plays, though Stoudemire has been most effective at center, where Chandler plays.

The Lakers fit. At one point or another, Nash, Kobe, Gasol and Howard all probably have been considered the best player at their respective position. Now they’re all together. It could be scary, but that’s only if everyone buys in.

Howard was initially apprehensive about a Laker move because he knows he can never be “the guy” while Kobe is around. Kobe practically told him as much during a tense phone conversation.

That’s why the Nash acquisition is so important. Nash is an unselfish player with no ego who just wants to win, desperately so. He’ll not only be able to dish out assists to some of the game’s top talent, he’ll be able to assuage any potential tension.

The Lakers put together a supposed super team once before, which resulted in a disappointing NBA Finals loss to the underdog Detroit Pistons in 2004. This team is much more athletic than that one and makes more sense on paper. It won’t be easy, but they have the firepower and motivation to get Kobe his sixth ring, equaling Michael Jordan.

It doesn’t make me especially happy, but I think a lot of you will be ecstatic come June. I like the new-look Lakers to dethrone the Heat in the Finals for the franchise’s 17th championship.