Lak­ers yearn for dawn of next sea­son

The Record (Troy, NY) - - SPORTS - Mark Heisler Orange County Regis­ter

Now for the sea­son Lak­er­dom has waited all decade for …

Oh, wait, that’s next sea­son, af­ter the Lak­ers bag that sec­ond star player they’ve saved salary cap space for, such as Kawhi Leonard or (they can dream) Kevin Du­rant.

This sea­son should be ti­tled “In the mean­time.” For the Lak­ers, who mea­sure suc­cess in ti­tles, this is still about re­build­ing to con­tend on that level, as op­posed to be­ing there.

The Western Con­fer­ence pow­ers far out­gun them — that’s the Rock­ets as well as the War­riors and per­haps two or three or more teams.

The Las Ve­gas over/un­der has the Lak­ers at 48.5 wins, a fair pro­jec­tion that ties them with Utah for No. 4 in the West, 14 be­hind the War­riors, six be­hind Hous­ton, two be­hind OKC.

The Nuggets are one back.

The Tim­ber­wolves are two back, only be­cause of the furor around Jimmy But­ler’s trade de­mand.

These are un­usu­ally mod­est ex­pec­ta­tions on the Lak­ers, a glam­our fran­chise that now has LeBron James, af­ter fin­ish­ing 23-18 last sea­son, a pace that projects to a 46-win sea­son preLeBron.

Nev­er­the­less, I’m go­ing with the “un­der” on this sea­son: Not enough co­he­sion, which even lesser Western chal­lengers such as Den­ver, Port­land and New Or­leans have af­ter years to­gether.

There are too many new mov­ing parts in a con­fer­ence in which the pow­ers have so few.

(LeBron has been in the

last eight Fi­nals — reach­ing all from the East, the lesser con­fer­ence even when his Mi­ami teams were the NBA’s best. Had LeBron’s Heat and Cava­liers been in the West, he would have done well to make half those Fi­nals.)

Be­sides LeBron, Magic John­son signed four vet­er­ans with check­ered pasts who might be in the ro­ta­tion — Ra­jon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephen­son. The team hopes they will as­sume key roles, not the least of which is van­ish­ing from its salary cap next spring.

(Ac­tu­ally, Rondo, one of those viewed most skep­ti­cally, might be the most help­ful, es­pe­cially if Lonzo Ball strug­gles or gets hurt. Once a non-fac­tor past 15 feet, Rondo has be­come a 35 per­cent 3-point shooter. )

RYAN LOCHER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Los An­ge­les Lak­ers for­ward LeBron James re­acts af­ter a play against the Golden State War­riors dur­ing the first half of an NBA pre­sea­son bas­ket­ball game Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10in Las Ve­gas.

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