The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the favorites to win the 2013 NBA Finals, but not everyone is ready to hand the West over to the purple and gold.
L.A. has the best odds, other than the defending champion Miami Heat, to take home the title next year. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, however, is skeptical about the Lakers chances.
"The Lakers have done this before. Gary Payton and Karl Malone and Kobe and Shaq were all together, and it didn't work," said Cuban. "It takes great chemistry. ... It takes guys wanting to be there. I don't know if all their guys want to be there."
Cuban referred to the 2003-04 season, in which Los Angeles lost to Detroit in the NBA Finals. L.A. acquired Malone and Payton in that offseason, but lost to the Pistons as heavy favorites.
The Lakers traded for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the past few months, and are expected to overtake the Thunder as the top team in their conference. Along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, L.A. has four potential All-Stars in their starting lineup.
"It's going to be interesting," said Cuban. "Look, they're going to have a great team, but I remember when we made our run, we weren't supposed to win any series. Remember the Lakers were the defending champs, and we swept them and they had everybody back."
Could Cuban's comments be sour grapes over not landing Howard or Nash himself?
The Mavericks had a disappointing 2011-12 campaign, after winning the championship in the previous season. They got swept in the first round of the playoffs, as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
Dallas failed to make any major moves during the season, in hopes that they could use their salary cap space to sign a big-time free agent. After essentially sacrificing their title defense, the Mavericks failed to bring in a game changer this offseason.
It was thought that Howard would be a free agent this summer, but he opted-in to the final year of his contract with the Magic. Orlando proceeded to trade the disgruntled superstar to Los Angeles, who was able to offer a much more appealing package than Dallas.
There's still a chance that the center could join the Mavericks in 2013. Howard will test the free agent market next summer, and the Mavericks are the most likely team to steal him away from the Lakers.
Howard, though, will probably decide to stay in L.A. The Lakers can offer him more money than any other team in the NBA.
Nash left Dallas for Phoenix in 2004 and emerged as a Hall of Fame point guard. After his contract ended with the Suns this past season, there were rumors that he might re-sign with his old club. In the end, the Lakers were able to work around their salary cap limitations with a sign-and-trade.
Dallas also missed out on their top free agent target, Deron Williams. The point guard decided to stay with the Nets, after many assumed he would return to his native Texas and play for the Mavericks.
Cuban could be proven right, as the Lakers certainly have questions about their roster. All of their four stars are either aging or fighting injuries.
Bryant, Gasol and Nash have played a combined 43 seasons in the NBA. Howard is just 26 years old, but he recently had back surgery. It's not known when he'll be ready to return to the court.
Even with the Lakers additions, Cuban is still very confident in his team going forward.
"A lot of teams do a great job of winning the summer, but I never get so antsy about what happens over the summer. I just want to know what happens during the season. As long as we keep on getting better and we're healthy going into the playoffs, then anything can happen."
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