Lakers' title timeline
Opportunity is fleeting
Before the season, I picked the Lakers to reach the Finals and lose to the Heat. Then, with a year under their belt as a group, they'd make a push to a championship next season despite everyone getting just a little older. I still think that's the most likely path to a title. But no question, everything happening so far -- from injuries disrupting training camp to Steve Nash's broken leg to the firing of Mike Brown and the hiring of Mike D'Antoni -- drives home how fluid and fragile the process is.
Even those believing the Lakers have a real chance to win a pair of titles the next couple seasons (and they do) have to acknowledge the odds say they won't. Not with Miami forever looming, a strong group in Oklahoma City (the Harden deal may have hurt them in the short run, but it could help over time), the can't-be-killed Spurs, a threatening Clippers team, and so on.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have a great two-year window … then a whole lot of mystery.
Point being, despite their unprecedented success and the dedication of the Buss family as owners, Lakers fans have no birthright to championships. They are incredibly hard to come by, and opportunity is fleeting. So many things can go wrong. I'm no mathemagenius, but statistically speaking at least, I have to believe if you lined up all four of these options, "none" would be the most likely. So make sure to enjoy the ride, not just the result.
Need a season to mesh
To a large degree, my opinion hasn't changed much by swapping Mikes. I predicted during the preseason the Lakers would reach the Finals under Brown, then get eliminated by the Miami Heat. They upgraded coaches by importing D'Antoni, but the team is still behind the 8 ball with Steve Nash's injury, Dwight Howard still working himself into game shape and the drama to start the season. This reality compounds what I felt was the Lakers' biggest issue beyond an uncontrollable element like health: a lack of continuity.
Even acknowledging the pedigree of the faces, they're still new, and it typically takes times for so many moving parts to finally get on the same page. As talented as the Miami Heat's Big 3 are, they still needed one full season under their belt to break through. Ditto the Lakers in 2008 upon adding Pau Gasol (although one could argue Andrew Bynum's absence was just as big a factor). Same story with the Wade-Shaq Heat.
There are exceptions, most recently the KG-Pierce-Allen Celtics, but for the most part, them's the rules. And were I a betting man, I'd put my money on the team blessed with continuity, particularly when they're enhancing a proven championship foundation.
These Lakers will come close, but it'll take a second season together before the franchise's 17th banner is raised.