History won’t be kind to the Lakers and their exit from the 2023 Western Conference Finals. While it was four very competitive games, it ultimately was just four games and the series ended in a sweep.
But the Lakers weren’t that far off the pace set by the Nuggets on their path to an NBA championship. It added some pressure to the team’s offseason and to the need to make the right moves to, at the very least, keep them at their current level.
On that front, it was more than mission accomplished over the summer, as the Lakers maintained their core and upgraded around the edges with Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince and Jaxson Hayes. By most accounts, the Lakers were a winner in free agency after making the conference finals.
Rightfully so, that has Darvin Ham excited and optimistic about the potential of this roster. In speaking with Mark Medina of the Sporting Tribune, Ham was adamant this team could compete for a title.
“Hell yeah; without question. “That’s what we’re in it for,” Ham told The Sporting Tribune. “We’re about winning around here and winning big. It’s not just about, ‘Hey we made the playoffs.’ We’re trying to get to that pinnacle and conquer it.”
It will be a very interesting season upcoming in the Western Conference. At the end of the regular season, the Lakers were one of the best teams in the conference and showed that in the playoffs.
While the Lakers at the very least maintained where they were, the Nuggets took a step back by losing the likes of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, two of the few rotation players they were using by the end of the postseason. Because of that, the Lakers took a step closer to the Nuggets, but so did much of the league.
The Suns should be better, the Grizzlies should be healthier, and the Clippers, Warriors and Kings all more or less held their ground. That alone is six teams that will be dueling with the Lakers, and doesn’t even account for any of the Wolves, Pelicans, Thunder or Mavericks.
As has routinely been the case in recent years, it will likely be another competitive year in the Western Conference. For Ham, though, the focus will be internally and not externally.
“The only thing that is going to stop us is us,” Ham said, “if we don’t come with the right mentality and right approach.”
From mid-February through the postseason, the Lakers were as good as almost every team in the league. If that can be expanded to an entire season, then the Lakers should be optimistic about their chances.
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