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Odom-small_mediumWhatever glimmer of hope Nuggets fans had that the Lakers might botch the re-signing of Lamar Odom was dashed today when the news broke that Odom would be returning to Los Angeles for the 2009-10 season.

I may be the "Nuggets Myopian-In-Chief" but I can't sugarcoat this one: by keeping Odom, the Lakers solidified their spot as the Western Conference's clear number one team (Kenyon Martin's post-Game 6 comments to the contrary notwithstanding).  Spurs, Nuggets and Blazers fans can start squabbling over who's finishing second while Jazz, Mavericks and Hornets fans can squabble over who's finishing fifth.

From what I've been told by people "in the know," the Lakers bring in at least four times as much revenue as the Nuggets do.  They make more off tickets, parking, local sponsorships and of course, their television package is incredibly lucrative - it helps when you reach a Southern California market of 16 million people plus San Diego and all of Las Vegas.  So the Lakers just added $8.3 million to a payroll already exceeding $84 million.  Big deal.  So they'll be paying an extra $23 million in luxury tax.  Thhbbbb (that's Jerry Buss sticking his well used tongue out at all non-Lakers fans everywhere).

Count me out on the Ron Artest-will-be-a-disaster-for-the-Lakers campaign that Bill Simmons and my man Travis Heath at HoopsWorld are selling.  I agree that Artest is a disaster offensively (poor shot selection and can't make more than 40% of those poor shots), but that's because he hasn't been open for years.  Artest made a wretched Sacramento Kings team competitive during his tenure there and carried the Rockets alongside Yao Ming when Tracy McGrady went down with yet another injury last season.  Throw in a healthy Andrew Bynum, a Pau Gasol that's found his inner toughness (have people come to terms with the fact that Gasol outplayed Dwight Howard in the Finals yet?), a now happy Odom and Nugget assassin Kobe Bryant and this former 65-win team is going for 70 wins next season.  Mark it down.

As grateful as we are for Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke's willingness to exceed the $70 million luxury tax threshold to keep the Nuggets competitive, there's no way Kroenke will sign off on the type of mega deal that would be required to compete with the Lakers now - i.e. using up the Nuggets trade exception to bring in a big time big man.  And with Emeka Okafor being shipped to the Hornets and Tyson Chandler on his way to the Bobcats, there aren't exactly a plethora of big time big men available these days.  (I won't bore you with my fifth blog post about why the Nuggets should aggressively pursue Marc Gasol or Jeff Foster.  New readers can check out my four trade proposals here.)

If there's a silver lining in all this, it's this: the Nuggets play great when no one thinks they have a shot at succeeding.  A lot of us (me included) have been fearful since the conclusion of the postseason that our Nuggets wouldn't have enough to play for next season.  We've been rightfully concerned that they may have proved all that they could and will come back in 2009-10 without that much needed chip on their shoulder.

Allow me to be the first to stoke the motivation flames going into next season as I quote the legendary Doug Moe for the umpteenth time: "We got no shot to beat the Lakers."

(Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)