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Monday morning crickets

March 23, 2009 |  9:33 am

This is a strange time of year, especially for a team like the Lakers, who currently hold a 9.5 game lead in the Western Conference and have for virtually the entire season looked down on their brethren like the tenants of Mount Olympus did more earthly types.  Obviously LA still has work to do. Six games remain on their seven game trip, continuing tomorrow in Oklahoma City against a Thunder squad that has played reasonably well of late.  There's the pursuit of the league's best record, which provides for a modicum of scoreboard watching to best keep up with happenings in Cleveland, and, of course, talk of Crickets the MVP race. 

D-Wade's late season push aside, it's still Kobe vs. LBJ, and while my money is on LeBron hauling home the hardware, it'll likely go down to the wire and could ultimately be determined by what each writer decides is, in the words of's Chris Sheridan, his Ultimate Deciding Factor.  (Cue fan frustration.)

What else is there?  The matter of getting Andrew Bynum out on the court (looks like next month, as it has for a while), of shoring up the bench play (hopefully Saturday's win in Chicago was the start of something good), and adding more consistency to the defensive end of things.  Forecasting playoff pairings is tough- it looks like Dallas, but the Mavs are only 2.5 games out of fifth, matching the gap between the six teams behind LA- so that'll have to wait. 

All of it leaves fans feeling a lot like the players, ready to get the business of playoff basketball under way.  While there are the aforementioned nuances to flesh out, by now we know what the Lakers are (a very, very good basketball team), something that isn't going to change before next month.  Without much to distract, all the extra days do is add tension before the good stuff starts. 

Tom Petty was so right.   More NBA news below the jump.