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Dwight Howard Trade To Lakers Might Not Equal Western Conference Dominance

By now you've undoubtedly heard the big news: the Los Angeles Lakers have added Dwight Howard to the team at the cost of Andrew Bynum. You also know they already added Steve Nash for spare parts. That means Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, along with Antawn Jamison, will roll out a new level of talent in the Forum when the 2012-13 NBA season rolls around.

The consensus so far is that the Lakers have the Western Conference wrapped up for at least the next season. So many of the Lakers are well into their 30s (nearing 40 in Nash's case), but the window is open nonetheless with this level of talent. Howard is the centerpiece to bring it all together, making the Lakers seemingly impossible to defend for any team -- even the Oklahoma City Thunder. And those are valid points.

"The big, bad Lakers are back, just like always," writes Berry Tramel. "Back enough to unseat the Thunder as the Western Conference champ? Not necessarily. But a lineup of Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Chaos is a roving Hall of Fame exhibit. Four guys past their wondrous prime, plus Howard, who has gone from Superman to Superpain. There might be enough fuel in the tank for the Lakers to mount another championship run. Heck, the Celtics dang near made the NBA Finals with an Over-the-Hill Gang; no reason the Dwightmares couldn't do the same."

"There's no reason" is perhaps the best way to say it. The Miami Heat just did the same thing -- throwing so much talent at the wall that something just had to stick. Now there's an Eastern conference version of it, so the Lakers vs. Heat for uber-ratings is bound to happen. Right?

What is forgotten within this is that there's no team concept here, no thought for how the pieces fit together. When you're dealing with talent on this level you don't have to, except the defending Western Conference champs disposed of anyone and everyone alongside them until they met the Heat. Granted, they lost and so the argument holds merit that the Lakers will unseat them. But let's not act so fast.

The reality is that this year's final was the first taste of what could be several consecutive appearances for a core as tightly knit and as talented as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka. It doesn't account for the tremendous experience the team is putting together in international play in this year's Summer Olympics in London. It doesn't include the return of Eric Maynor and the development of Reggie Jackson or the drafting of Perry Jones III.

Great teams on paper often stay that way. Until the Lakers prove that they can mesh well as a unit, there's no reason to believe the road to the NBA Finals has veered away from Oklahoma City to any degree. After all, making noise in the offseason -- even this much of it -- has never won a championship for anyone. Just ask Miami the first time around.

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