Nba West 2006/7

Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson are together again in one of the NBA’s most enduring soap operas and while the glitter is back in the City of Angels, it is San Antonio that still rules the Western Conference.
The Spurs rolled to the NBA title last year using basically a seven-man rotation, so have brought in veterans Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel as they begin their title defence on November 1.
Finley averaged 16 points on a Dallas Mavericks team that finished 58-24 a year ago, the third-best record in the league.
In acquiring the two-time All-Star, the Spurs improve a perimeter that already has Manu Ginobili and Brent Barry at shooting guard and defensive stalwart Bruce Bowen at small forward.
Throw in 12-year veteran guard Van Exel and improved backcourt mate Beno Udrih of Slovenia and you have a Spurs crew that is deeper and more talented than last year’s title team.
We are all starting to play better together,'' said Ginobli. It is going to take a while, but they are all talented players, hard workers and they want to play and be successful here.’’
Expected to battle two-time MVP Tim Duncan and the Spurs for the top spot in the West are the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets.
Phoenix star Amare Stoudemire is out until February with a knee injury, making it unlikely the run-and-gun Suns will match last season’s 62-20 record.
But with point guard Steve Nash guiding the offence and newly acquired Kurt Thomas patrolling the paint, the Suns should be formidable.
Judging from their 32-8 record to close out the 2004-05 season, the Nuggets could be the team to watch with coach George Karl, who arrived last January, overseeing a huge improvement.
We're on a mission this year,'' said Nuggets veteran centre Marcus Camby. We feel like we have a team this year that can win the championship, so guys are putting in that extra effort.’’
Coach Jackson and his star guard Bryant are reunited in Los Angeles but while the Lakers will likely improve on last year’s 34-48 record, a deep postseason run is still years away.
With a record-tying nine NBA titles under his belt, Jackson took last year off after blasting Bryant as combative and divisive in a book. But he has returned with a modest goal of having the Lakers reach the postseason.
The Lakers will need a big year from newly acquired Kwame Brown, a 6-foot-11 former number one overall draft pick.
Who else will be in the mix for a long postseason run?
Houston’s Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady will need some help if they are going to improve on last year’s 51-31 record, while Dallas might struggle to replace Finley.
Seattle, Sacramento, Utah and Memphis will probably make the playoffs but a long run is highly improbable.