Four reporters from the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel
Considering the NBA is about to undergo an extreme makeover, it is ludicrous to even try to handicap the 2010-11 championship race, let alone make any proclamations about a Lakers team that might not even have Phil Jackson leading the way.
That said, this hardly was a team of dominance this season, but rather one pushed to the ultimate limit in the ultimate game of the season. And even before the desperate scramble from a 3-2 Finals deficit, Kobe & Co. were being pushed to Game 6s against the Thunder and Suns.
No, let's first see where LeBron & Co. land.
Of course, should LeBron land with the Lakers in some sort of sign-and-trade, then there might not be a need for a debate, or 2010-11 season, at all.
[Updated at 12:20 p.m.:
K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
The Lakers will repeat as long as Kobe Bryant draws a paycheck and Pau Gasol continues to supply his occasional bursts of magic.
And, no, this team isn't as dominant as those led by Magic. But with the Eastern Conference full of pretenders like the Orlando Magic and the Whatever LeBrons, that conference isn't ready. (The Celtics' Big Three made a valiant last gasp.) And the Suns' surprising advancement to this season's Western Conference finals shows how lacking the Lakers' substantive competition is.
Yes, this title was tougher. But Tim Duncan is a year older, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a year or two too young and Kobe lives for history. He should get it in the form of his second three-peat, matching his idol, good ol' MJ.]
[Updated at 1:30 p.m.:
Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
Get ready for a three-peat, Los Angeles. The Lakers should be considered the favorites to win a third consecutive NBA title next June, as long as Phil Jackson returns as head coach.
The nucleus of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest is under contract for the 2010-11 season. Bynum should be healthy. Even if Derek Fisher retires, Mitch Kupchak should be able to find a point guard to fill the void.
The big question marks revolve around Jackson and LeBron James. Jackson steadies the Lakers, and without him the star-filled Lakers could lose sight of the team concept.
James adds another variable to the equation. If he joins Dwyane Wade in Miami, the Heat immediately would join the league’s elite and could cause the Lakers (and everyone else) headaches.
In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the team of the future. But for one more year at least, the Lakers should be the class of the conference.]
Photo: Big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum embrace in the middle of the Lakers' celebration on the Staples Center court after an 83-79 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times