A big reason L.A. and Cleveland are prohibitive favorites to reach the Finals is because each has been that far already over the past couple of seasons. They know what to expect, while the Nuggets (apart from Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin) still have to learn the hard way.
If Denver falls behind in a series or if it reaches the West finals and has to navigate without home-court advantage, I wonder how its players, and even coach George Karl, will react. From what reservoirs will it draw? Still, no offense to the Lakers (and I have no idea what the TV ratings would be), but the prospects of Billups dueling Mo Williams, Kenyon Martin banging into LeBron James, Nenê battling Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Chris Andersen hooking up with Anderson Varejao -- with Karl back where he got his NBA head coaching start 15 years ago -- all are intriguing.