ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin is reporting that Lakers‘ head coach Mike Brown has filled out his assistant coaching staff, which will include Eddie Jordan and Brown’s mentor – and Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award winner – Bernie Bickerstaff!

After reading McMenamin’s tweet today, my fear of the Lakers claiming the 2013 NBA Championship has been diminished substantially. Not only did the NBA’s pre-eminent franchise hire Bernie Bickerstaff aboard the coaching staff – a man that was perhaps the biggest franchise destroyer in Nuggets history – but apparently Bickerstaff has been Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown’s mentor throughout his NBA career (Brown’s NBA career began in Denver as a video coordinator and scout under Bickerstaff).

At long last, I know how Brown turned five straight NBA Finals appearances with LeBron James on his roster in a weak Eastern Conference into one: he is Bernie’s mentee!

This is the same Bickerstaff who wouldn’t re-sign Dikembe Mutombo. The same Bickerstaff who traded down in the 1996 NBA Draft – passing on Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash – to select a Greek player he had never seen play. The same Bickerstaff who overpaid an aging Dale Ellis to chuck bad shots in a Nuggets uniform and disrupt the chemistry of the locker room. The same Bickerstaff who was a loser in Washington, Charlotte and Portland after leaving the Nuggets (in fact, I’m surprised Bickerstaff’s Globetrotters ever beat the Generals when he was consulting with them). The same Bickerstaff who was proudly inducted into the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame as a Lifetime Achievement recipient … and among the voters, it wasn’t even close (even though Dan Issel was eligible).

Combined with having no approximate timetable for newly acquired center Dwight Howard’s return from back surgery, the hiring of Bickerstaff has me leaning towards predicting the Oklahoma City Thunder to repeat as Western Conference Champions.