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The Thing About Malone To The Lakers

Everyone is more or less conceding the next NBA title to L.A. after they signed Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and they will be powerful. Payton will end a lot of problems at the point, and obviously, even at 40, an always superbly conditioned Karl Malone will be a huge factor. But it might not be entirely in ways the Lakers expect.

Shaquille O' Neal has gone on record as having hired a marine to whip him into shape. It's kind of pitiful that he has to do that at this point in his career - you'd think a professional would have mastered that. What he probably didn't expect is that he'd get a marine as a teammate - and that may be a big factor for the Lakers.

Karl Malone is, in the deepest sense, a professional. He's also a guy who carries a lot of authority. So how will Shaq deal with him in the lineup? If he fools around, Malone is big enough, strong enough, and mean enough to go after him. The dynamics on this team will change a lot now, and whether Shaq will welcome those changes or resent them will define the Lakers for the near future.