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Old 09-28-12, 06:14 PM
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alh1020 alh1020 is offline
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Beware the Thunder and Lakers, Popovich says

alh1020: CIA Pop is warming up.

The way Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sees it, if the Western Conference were a race — and we suppose it is — his team is already running behind.

Asked at a pre-training camp press briefing Friday to handicap the West, Popovich echoed an opinion already the consensus of NBA followers with eyes everywhere.

Though the Spurs finished with the best mark in the conference by three games last season (50-16), Oklahoma City and the new-look L.A. Lakers are the two teams to chase this year.

“There are a lot of teams that are competitive in the West,” Popovich said. “But if you look on paper, you’ve got to look at those two teams right off the bat. There are others, but those two hit you in the face pretty quickly.”

The Thunder and Lakers come about their place as conference frontrunners from different directions.

OKC brings back a team at its core identical to the one that backdoor-swept the Spurs from the Western Conference finals last season before losing to Miami in the championship round.

The Lakers, meanwhile, added a Hall of Fame point guard (albeit an aging one) in Steve Nash, and pulled off the coup of the summer by trading for Dwight Howard, the NBA’s premiere big man.

If both of their backs hold up — a legitimate “if” at this point — the Lakers will be a tough out come playoff time.

“When you see what the Lakers did, they have the potential to be a great team,” Popovich said. “Oklahloma City is Oklahoma City. The rest of us want to all improve so that we can catch those guys.”

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