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L.A. Lakers' Big Three Face Uncertain Season

When Healthy Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash Are Among the NBA’s Best

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COMMENTARY | The great news for the Los Angeles Lakers this year is that they've got three Hall of Fame starters. The bad news is that it's not 2009.

Every team in the NBA would love to have three future Hall of Famers going to battle for it every game. However, this becomes less and less appealing the closer you get to the players' actual induction ceremonies. Old age starts to become their fiercest opponent as their once-vaunted skills diminish -- along with their ability to go to battle in every game.

Lately, there's been a somewhat odd fixation by the media and fans about just who are each team's "Big 3." Perhaps it's because the overall skill level of the secondary role players in the league has increased over the years. Or perhaps it's because we are a star-craved society with an unquenchable thirst for exalting grown men who play games.

Whatever the reason, no NBA team is considered a legitimate championship contender if it doesn't have a "Big 3" to match up against the other team's "Big 3." Though it may seem a bit arbitrary to stop at three when four and five are also readily accessible.

Determining where your team's three best players rank against the rest of the league is a quick index to whether it will make it to the playoffs and beyond.

Are they the Three Stooges -- a group of loveable, but otherwise completely incompetent buffoons -- destined for an awful season and a lottery pick? Or are they the Three Amigos -- quite possibly the greatest trio in the history of modern entertainment -- setting their sites on a championship?

Teams like the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls are at the far end of the Stooges-Amigos scale. Based on name recognition alone, that's exactly where the Lakers belong as well -- with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.

However, the Lakers' trio just have too many questions to be regarded as Three Amigos. You ask, "Would you say they have a plethora of questions?" A what? "A plethora." Oh, yes, readers, they have a plethora.

Not the least of their questions are when and how often the three of them will actually play together. The Kobot just flew off to Germany for some more platelet-rich blood treatment, Pau had procedures on both of his knees and Nash gets injured so regularly he might be better off spelling his name N*A*S*H.

However, these three are some of the best that the sport has ever seen, and playing at 100 percent they are easily among the best in the league and would certainly be enough to carry their weak supporting roster into the first round of the playoffs and beyond.

I wrote last week about how Pau has a legitimate shot at the MVP Award if certain things fall the right way. Obviously, that's a big "if," but it's not nearly as big an "if" as the three of them staying healthy.

[Report: Kobe Bryant didn't tell coach Mike D'Antoni about leaving country for treatment]

If they aren't fully healthy, each one of them is the type that will still go out onto the court and give it everything they've got. However, at their ages, I don't necessarily think that's a good thing. And this is where their slide down to Three Stooges level becomes inevitable and the harsh reality of their body mileage impinges on them every night.

But, remember: Three is a magic number. Yes, it is; it's a magic number. And maybe the Lakers' "Big 3" have just enough left in the tank for another magical season. Do you remember the '04 Detroit Pistons or the '05 Heat? Those two teams weren't very good and with a healthy combination of basketball skill, helpful refs and lucky leprechauns flying on unicorns, they wound up winning titles.

So, with all the uncertainty surrounding the team, their three future Hall of Famers give them a good shot. And since we're talking about the Lakers, no matter how the season goes, it's sure to be a three-ring circus.

Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can see him on Twitter @JedRigney.

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