The goal for every NBA team at this point on the calendar is to win the NBA Championship, but two of the league's flagship franchises are really putting the foot to the floor.
The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks have decided to go for it sooner rather than later, but for different reasons.
The Lakers had the splashiest offseason with the acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. After an embarrassing playoff performance against the eventual Western Conference champions, Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers needed to do something to get back to the elite status.
Bringing in that much quality talent, and matching egos, can be tricky, but there is still one chef, no matter how many cooks are in the Lakers' kitchen.
"I don't get into the 'Oh, you, we share. No, it's my team,'" Kobe Bryant said at Lakers' Media Day. "I want to make sure that, Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away, this organization can ride on as if I never left."
The Lakers don't accept poor playoff performances. Teams don't hang 17 championship banners without being aggressive. In recent memory, they traded for Bryant, signed Shaq, snagged Pau Gasol and brought in potential headaches like Metta World Peace and Lamar Odom who paid dividends.
With that mind-set and the 4-1 whooping by the Oklahoma City Thunder still leaving a bitter taste in the organization's collective mouth, it's easy to see why Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak did what he did.
When you consider the price, it's also pretty clear why there are two new future Hall of Famers in the City of Angels.
The Lakers gave Phoenix two first-round picks, two second-round picks and $3 million in cash for Nash. The $3 million is probably the Starbucks petty cash for the Lakers and the draft picks won't be high based on the probable finishes of the Lakers in the near future.
For Howard, the Lakers gave up the second-best center in the sport in Andrew Bynum. That's a tough call until you realize they acquired the best center in the league. Howard is a free agent at the end of the year, but a full season in Los Angeles, and does anyone with a brain think Howard is going anywhere? He may have wanted to go New York, but L.A. is a nice place to live, so I hear.
You might have noticed an interesting word choice in Bryant's quote about this being his team. Bryant brought up the word "retire," which had to make Kupchak throw up a little in his mouth.
Bryant took it a step forward when he spoke with Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, referring to how much time is left on his contract as a specific point for retirement.
"It's just that three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health," said Bryant, who has this upcoming season and next left on his contract. "That's a lot of years. For a guard? That's a lot of years."
The day Bryant decides to hang em up should be the sounding bell for rebuilding, but the Howard acquisition changes that. Howard, assuming he signs a long-term deal in L.A., could stabilize the future, but with Bryant out the door in two years and Nash nearing 40, the time is now.
The Lakers realize as much. Their starting five is spectacular with Gasol joining Bryant, Nash, Howard and World Peace (there's a sentence you don't anticipate writing in journalism class). Howard is the only starter under 30.
Bryant is still an elite-level player, but the Lakers aren't legitimate title contenders without him. It seems like an obvious statement. The caution is not to get caught up in the other four without the Mamba.
When you couple the humiliation of losing to the youthful Thunder with Bryant's now public career plans, it's easy to figure out why the Lakers are going for it now.
The Knicks are in an almost exactly opposite situation.
Their core of Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire are still in the primes of their careers. The Knicks have decided to complement those players with aging veterans in their title pursuit.
New to the Knicks in the last year, but certainly not new to the planet Earth are Marcus Camby (38), Kurt Thomas (40), Jason Kidd (39) and the formerly retired Rasheed Wallace (38).
It would be easy to assume this is some convoluted plan for senior rates on domestic flights since, but the plan is pretty clear for the Knicks - win now, with these veterans helping out.
According to USA Today, the average age of the Knicks is 32 years, 240 days old. That would make them the oldest team in league history. The cafeteria, which will have to open for dinner at 4:30 p.m. to accommodate these old- timers, better carry strained veggies.
To be fair, Kidd and Camby will be part of the rotation. It's hard to imagine Thomas and Wallace playing much, barring a flu outbreak what with Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler in the mix.
The biggest hurdle that holds the Knicks back from realizing their full potential is chemistry. Can Carmleo and Amare co-exist?
There's nothing like veterans to help out with problems like that. With the exception of Wallace, the NBA's all-time technical foul leader, who promised to tone it down, these are fairly solid citizens (and Kidd has had his brushes with the law, but is a good teammate).
The problem for the Knicks in this plan is that the Eastern Conference, let alone the Atlantic Division, is not a cakewalk. They still don't have the talent to compete with the Heat and it'll be a battle with the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets for the division title.
It's a good step to go for broke with this team, though. The NBA is a superstar league and the Knicks have two. One significant injury for one of those teams and the Knicks are right there.
The Lakers and Knicks should both go for it now. The point is a championship ring. The reasons are different, but the strategies are solid.
- Derrick Rose is the most important player to his team in the NBA. He's casting doubts on his availability this season after an ACL tear in the first round of the playoffs. If he played a whole season, the Bulls could contend for the East. Without Rose, they are a bottom-level playoff team.
- Keep an eye on Dirk Nowitzki. He just had his right knee drained for the second time in October and missed a preseason game. If the swelling doesn't go down, Nowitzki said surgery is a possibility. A prolonged Nowitzki absence would probably send the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Lottery.
- Also on the injury front, watch out for Bynum. Sixers head coach Doug Collins said Bynum received another injection in his right knee. Bynum's agent, David Lee, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Look at it as WD-40, for lack of a better way of explaining it. He gets them at the start of the season, and he gets them at the all-star break. It's noninvasive and has nothing to do with the treatment he received in Germany." That's fine, but multiple shots aren't good for anybody unless it's your 21st birthday.
- Movie moment - Yes, it's back from the golf column and here goes. Last Saturday, I watched "Tango and Cash" twice in one day. It's worth mentioning I've never seen "Casablanca."
- TV moment - For the first time ever, I'm not watching any new programs. I was going to watch the one with the rogue submarine, but then I said that out loud and realized it didn't sound like a great idea.