Commentary

Double trouble for Lakers in West?

PER Diem: Feb. 5, 2010

Updated: February 5, 2010, 6:19 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com
Chauncey Billups, Deron WilliamsGarrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesChauncey Billups' Nuggets and Deron Williams' Jazz pose the biggest threats to the Lakers out West.

Try as we might to avoid discussing the Lakers every day, we can't help ourselves for one very good reason: Any discussion of other contenders in the West automatically takes us back to L.A. as a reference point.

The theme of the Western Conference this season has been "Will anybody challenge the Lakers?" Support for affirmative answers has been scarce; much like last season, when L.A. won 11 more games than any other team in the conference, the Lakers have opened up a large gap over the competition. That L.A. has done this despite nonexistent point guard production, the loss of Pau Gasol for 17 games and a laundry list of minor dings to Kobe Bryant suggests the Lakers are highly likely to claim a third straight conference title.

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