Most of the time a team with an aging core of players trying to integrate a new coach's philosophy would be satisfied with the second round of the playoffs.
That's most teams. This is the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the regular season the Lakers narrowly fended off a challenge from their neighbours down the hall for LA supremacy and won the Pacific division with a 41-25 record.
But regular seasons aren't what matter to the Lakers. Championships are.
A second-straight exit in Round 2 of the playoffs was a big disappointment for a core of players that had won back-to-back titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Star Power - Adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to any team would make them immediate playoff contenders. Put them alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? You have yourself a title favourite. Mitch Kupchak deserves a medal for landing Howard and Nash this off-season while somehow managing to do it without losing Gasol. On paper the Lakers look scary good. They have the best centre in the game (Howard), one of the 10 best players of all-time (Bryant), a two-time MVP point guard (Nash) and a four-time NBA All-Star power forward (Gasol). If you're a Lakers fan, this is awesome. If you aren't this is just unfair.
Still His Team
Despite the other superstars joining him in Los Angeles, make no mistake, this is still Kobe Bryant's team.
Pick and Roll - Much has been made about the Lakers using a Princeton offence rather than the pick and roll offence that Steve Nash is most used to. Who cares? Nash is smart enough to thrive in the Princeton system and will still get opportunites to play the pick and roll. Nash is one of the best guards ever when it comes to to the pick and roll and now he'll get the chance to run it with probably the most effective finisher in Dwight Howard. Who is going to stop it?
Improved Bench - All of the attention was given to the Nash and Howard acquisitions this summer and rightfully so, but the Lakers made a few other nice moves to improve their depth. Antawn Jamison can provide solid scoring off then bench while Jodie Meeks can be productive while Kobe gets a breather. Retaining Jordan Hill to backup Howard was also a wise move. Steve Blake and Chris Duhon are by no means great but should be able to keep things flowing while Nash sits on the bench, or rather stretches out beside it.
Age and Injuries - Nash is 38-years-old and has a history of back and hip problems. How much more does he have left in the tank? Kobe is 34, has a ton of mileage on his knees and has had more than a few other injuries in his career. And then there is Howard's back. Howard played through pain for much of his last season with the Magic before finally going under the knife. He is expected to make a full recovery and seems to be on target for the beginning of the season but his health is still a big question mark. Starting small forward Metta World Peace is 34 and isn't as quick as he once was defensively. Even Pau Gasol is 32 while their top bench scoring option Antawn Jamison is 36. Age and injuries appear to have a better chance of derailing the Lakers march to the Western Conference title than most teams do.
Championship or Bust - The weight of expectations on this team is huge. Anything less than a title will be seen as a failure. They are also going to be playing with a target on their back every single night as teams will be looking to knock the Lakers off their podium. Just ask the 2010-11 Heat how hard it is to play under those type of expecations on a nightly basis.
Get ready for the season with the latest from TSN.ca.
After reloading in the off-season, the Lakers enter in the top spot.
Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers at No. 3 overall
Many Mouths to Feed - There is a ton of talent in LA which is always a good problem to have. But it does mean that someone is going to have to get used to seeing less of the ball. History tells us it's not going to be Kobe even if he probably should defer more often. Nash and Gasol have never really had a problem with sharing. The big question mark is Howard. D-12 has become petulant at times during his career when he isn't getting the ball as much as he'd like. There are nights when he is going to have to be okay being the fourth option.
X Factor: Mike Brown
Is Mike Brown a coach that can manage this abundance of talent and bring them to a title? Brown used the lack of practice time thanks to the lockout as an excuse for many of the Lakers failings last year. No such excuse is available now. He is known as a defence first coach which but the Lakers defence was middle of the pack a season ago and their offence really looked stagnant at times under Brown's watch. Brown is a likeable, hard-working guy but if the Lakers fall short of expecations this season it will likely be his head that rolls.
What to Expect
Providing there are no major injuries for the Lakers, a run to the Western finals seems almost assured. And even there they should likely be considered favouritres. There are certainly teams like the Thunder that will give the Lakers a run for their money out west but their biggest challenge looks to be LeBron James and the defending champion Heat. If things play out that way buckle up for a crazy finals with so many of the game's biggest stars facing off. It's championship or bust in LA.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
Steve Nash. Dwight Howard. 'Nuff said.
The Lakers front office continued to run their masterclass in team management this summer as the club not only put themselves back atop the Western Conference but reshaped their future by importing Howard, who will take the reins of the team from Kobe when he retires.
The club also fortified their bench with Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark and a re-signed Jordan Hill.
A home run offseason if there ever was one.