Repeating as N.B.A. champion is difficult — but the Lakers didn’t expect it to be this hard.
The Los Angeles Lakers braced for a season of strain after the shortest off-season in league history.
They did not anticipate this.
The Lakers did not envision long stretches without both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and a regular-season slog that is testing them in new ways after the rigors of being confined within the N.B.A.’s restricted-access campus at Walt Disney World for three months last summer. James, Davis and Co. began the 2020-21 season as overwhelming title favorites, having emerged from bubble life as N.B.A. champions, but factors that raise the degree of difficulty
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