As the Lakers move through the early part of their schedule with surprisingly few playoff-caliber teams on the horizon, they might face only one legitimate challenger.
It's barely November, and the games might not get really interesting until mid-May, leaving a lot of time to ponder a lot of games against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons the next two months.
Assistant coach Brian Shaw, part of the franchise's last three-championship run, found plenty of ways for the Lakers to stay motivated.
"They have a lot of things: Kobe [Bryant] wanting to catch Michael [Jordan], trying to get a 17th championship to catch the [ Boston] Celtics, as well as everybody talking about Miami, and Boston loading up with Jermaine and Shaq [both O'Neals].
"Those things are enough of a motivation by themselves, and there's also that this might possibly be Phil [Jackson]'s last year coaching and wanting to put him out on top with a fourth three-peat, which has never been done. The motivation is built-in in every area."
The Lakers have looked fine so far this season, improving to 3-0 Sunday with an easy 107-83 victory over Golden State, as Bryant works his way back to full strength and Andrew Bynum remains sidelined by off-season knee surgery.
Shaw had an unusual look at the situation.
"Obviously, you want everybody to be as strong as they possibly can be, but it may in a way be a good thing," he said. "Hopefully this is the opposite [from usual], where Andrew starts out being injured and finishes strong. And it may be a good thing for Kobe to start out this way as well, because he may be his own worst enemy when it comes to wanting something so bad, he might have burned himself out at the beginning."
Meanwhile, Shaw singled out two players to watch until the roster was completely restored to good health.
"Ron [Artest] has come into the season in extremely good shape, and Lamar [Odom] as well because of his summer with the U.S. team," he said. "Those two are really going to have to hold everything together until Kobe gets back to full strength and until Andrew gets back, which will help them out and give them more confidence and ultimately help our whole team out in the end."
What's a three-peat?
According to Artest, the players haven't been talking about the possibility of winning a third consecutive championship.
"You're the first one to mention it," he said to a reporter while walking into the locker room before Sunday's game.
He said boredom wouldn't be a problem for him.
"I've just got one way. I've just got one engine," he said. "I just stay right there."