The Oklahoma City Thunder were already the envy of every NBA team with their tremendous core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka before the 2012 London Olympics even began. Now with the display of each player on the international stage, the experience and composure of the core of players is only stronger. However, the Los Angeles Lakers are determined to do anything they can to undermine the Thunder's dominance of the Western Conference with today's announced trade for Dwight Howard.
The Lakers might lose a promising big man like Andrew Bynum, but the signing of Steve Nash to go with Howard's acquisition places the Lakers squarely in the mix of contending this next year. A small window is still a window nonetheless and the Lakers are going for it. The moves might just be enough to help the Lakers best the Thunder for a year or two. ESPN's Brian Kamentezsky writes:
If the Lakers were on the cusp of contention in the Western Conference after the Nash deal -- very competitive but still a tick below Miami and Oklahoma City -- they're now at worst in the center (no pun intended) of the conversation, and at best could lead it. Assuming he recovers well from the back surgery from which he's currently rehabbing -- and I don't think the Lakers would have pulled the trigger without doing their due diligence -- the Lakers have added a top-five player and the most dominant defensive force in the NBA to a lineup already including Nash, Gasol, and, of course, Kobe Bryant.
It will be interesting to see if the Lakers suddenly look their age or even whether or not these pieces are a good fit. But in the end, it comes down to ability and the Lakers have plenty of talent -- perhaps as much as any other team in the NBA. The experiment might or might not work, but there's no doubting the team's intentions to win now at all costs.