Tuesday, October 2, 2007

L.A. Lakers

L.A. Lakers season preview

Projected starting lineup

G Derek Fisher
G Kobe Bryant
F Luke Walton
F Lamar Odom
C Kwame Brown

Andrew Bynum
Vladimir Radmanovic
Jordan Farmar

Last Year
Are you a glass half full or half empty type of person? The Lakers had the number 2 seeded Phoenix Suns down 3-1 with more then a few chances to get that 4th W. That is the half full view is that the Lakers almost did the unthinkable and eliminate the more talented Suns team. Of course the half empty view is the fact that they were up 3-1 and blew the lead and lost the series. Ether way, I am sure coming into the 2006-2007 season, the team was optimistic about there chances in improving. Spurs/Mavs level? Not quite, but if the game is close in the 4th and Kobe is on the floor, the Lakers can beat anybody in the league. In fact the Lakers started the 06/07 season with a win over the Suns, and went on to a 20-11 record by new years. Now if I was to say that the most important player to this team was Luke Walton, you might call me crazy. But when Walton went down with an injury, the Lakers went 6-15 over that stretch. Combined with an injury to Odom, the momentum died quickly for this team. In fact, the only thing positive for the team in the second half of the season was a 5 game winning streak that happened shortly after Walton returned, although this was also the infamous Kobe averaging 36 shots a game and putting up his 65/50/60/50/43 stretch. The Lakers limped into the playoffs and were dominated by the Suns. What could be taken from this season was that when the Lakers were playing more as a team, were Kobe takes 17-22 shots, they were well above 500. But the injuries to Kwame Brown and Vladimir Radmanovic and Walton and Odom took away any type of team chemistry and gave Kobe a reason to shoot more. That huge stretch of scoring Kobe had could be viewed as the reason for the poor performance going into the playoffs, as when it came time to play team ball again, none of the players were in any type of rhythm for it. Oh, and when the Lakers played without Kobe, they were 3-2.

Signed Derek Fisher
Re-signed Chris Mihm
Re-signed Luke Walton
Signed Coby Karl
Lost Smush Parker to free agency
Drafted Javaris Crittenton
Signed Elton Brown
Signed Andre Patterson

So of course we all know what is going on in Laker land. What kind of drama will happen this year since this team did not come close to improving to the level that will satisfy Kobe? Derek Fisher instead of Smush is a definete plus, but not nearly enough. Signing Luke Walton to a long term deal was also smart as he had a solid year and works well in the triangle. But as nice as some of these deals were, I doubt they made the king happy.

This could be a fun one to watch. When the team is working together, and with the addition of Fisher, they are more then capable of playing plus 500 ball. But if those wheels start to come off, when a losing streak hits this team, when Kobe starts his 30 plus shots a game again, the shit will hit the fan. 82 games plus playoffs is a very long time. Every team in the league deals with injuries and losing streaks. Some of those teams have the depth and knowledge and maturity to deal with these road blocks. The Lakers last year were not one of those teams. Can they be one this up-coming year? If the drama from the summer is any indication, I would say no. And really this is not a kobe hating type of opinion...this team as it is today is not going to win any championships, but they are also better then what they showed late last year. 9 games over 500 at new years, 10 games over 500 going into Feb, they are capable of winning games. They then had a major meltdown that started with injuries to Walton and Odom. When those players came back, it was a different story with different results. Why? Odom missed 5 games the last 2 and a half months. Walton was back one month before the playoffs. They had plenty of time to get back to the type of ball they were playing before the injuries. But they looked like a completely different team. The reality is that you need a leader to guide you threw the tough times. Kobe Bryant aka "Lets cut up my teammate to this camera cause he wasn't traded" is not a leader.

What to watch for
1) The obvious - What is Kobe going to bring this year when it comes to attitude? This team is not a deep playoff team and he has 2 more years on the contract. The drama is far from over.
2) Bynum - This kid has been picked as the future by the Lakers management. He is still young, but he is going to need to start to show that potential to us basketball fans sooner rather then later.
3) Playoffs or bust - With such a strong western conference, if this team does not make the playoffs....oh good lord watch out.

Well, based on the production in the first half of last season, I will give the Lakers the benefit of the doubt and predict that they will make the playoffs. But it won't be easy. They are going to have to stay consistent for the entire run, because if they end up in 7th or 8th spot, they are just going to be handed another 1st round lose. You got to think that, in order to keep the drama down, they need at least second round.

Between 42-45 wins this season with a 7th place finish in the West.

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