There's been such an abundance of peace, harmony and victories in Lakerland that even Dallas Maverick guard Tim Hardaway could see how things must be tough for the local media.
"Y'all don't have anything to write," Hardaway said before the Mavericks played the Lakers Wednesday night at Staples Center.
No feuds, no controversies and worst of all, no challenges.
Minnesota, Milwaukee and all other would-be foes got blasted out of Staples.
The Mavericks have turned into a de-facto rival, mainly by a lot of talking and a little glimmer of hope.
For now, all they have is a legitimate right to claim "We'll get 'em next time" after pushing to the end in a 98-94 Laker victory.
It's looking like the only real rival for the Lakers is the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and their 72-10 record.
Forget stopping Shaquille O'Neal, because there's no person or team in the league that can do that. Spend time on something more simple and practical, like nuclear fusion. Even with the new zone defense rules at his disposal, the best Maverick mad scientist Coach Don Nelson could devise was a plan to front O'Neal with Dirk Nowitzki and try to deny him the entry pass. In the second half they sent anyone around to foul him when he got the ball in the paint.
That held O'Neal to 46 points, and only because O'Neal missed 12 of 22 free throws. (Two of O'Neal's made free throws came after the Mavericks gave him an extra chance because of lane violations. Poetic justice. Maverick owner Mark Cuban was the one who complained to the league that O'Neal was committing violations of his own by stepping over the line after he shot free throws.)
"I don't like when people talk," O'Neal said. "When certain people talk, it's like a challenge to me. I've been in this league 10 years. I've stepped up to every challenge. It's kind of stupid to me, why you'd want to say something directed toward me and act like I'm not going to respond. Keep talking, and just keep making me a better player. Thank you, Mark Cuban. I appreciate it. You motivate me."
When a German reporter asked Nowitzki a question about Shaq, the only word I understood was "unstoppable."
The reporter later explained that there's really no single-word equivalent in German; there is "unstoppbar," but it doesn't have quite the same meaning.
O'Neal took that as another testament to the power of his game.
"Untranslatable," he said.
The only way to make a run at the Lakers is to come at them with firepower, and the Mavericks have enough at their disposal.
Point guard Steve Nash is as good at running an offense as anyone west of Jason Kidd.
Michael Finley is on that tier just below Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter. Finley didn't have it Wednesday. He shot three for 10 and fouled out after 31 minutes.
But the Mavericks still hung tough because they also have Nowitzki.
I don't understand why Nowitzki isn't leading the league in field-goal percentage, because whenever I watch him he doesn't miss. He was at it again in the first quarter, making six of seven shots.
He scored 33 points Wednesday. And somehow Dallas got 23 points from Adrian Griffin.
And yet the Lakers still won even though they got about as poor a collective performance from their perimeter players as you're likely to see this season.
So it's on, then? In reality, these teams will have to meet in the playoffs for a couple of years to get this going.
To Phil Jackson, rivalries commence "When teams start beating you and you get embarrassed.
"The rivalry that happened with Sacramento, they beat us in the playoffs two out of five games," Jackson said. "We won 3-2 in that short series and that made it a difficult situation for us. When you get the full attention and the energy of a team, that kind of makes for a rivalry."
So far, Lakers-Mavericks has been a feud in words only. The Lakers have won 39 of 42 games. Even last season, when Dallas had its first playoff team in 11 years, the Lakers swept the four games.
It's much better behind the microphones.
"A lot of talk, a lot of talk, a lot of talk," Cuban said. "Hopefully we can turn it into a real rivalry."
But it's almost as if they can't keep quiet until tipoff.
"I wouldn't work for someone like Cuban," Jackson said during his pre-game media session. "The owner's important for me, as far as a coach. I think you've got to have kind of a hands-off approach with owners. I mean, that's the thing I think is really important, that you don't feel like people are either too close to the team or looking down your back. This is the way I feel."
\o7 J. A. Adande can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.