I was wrong about "blank"
With a Laker regular season now completely (and triumphantly) in the books, I can't help but think about how crazy these 82 game's worth of October-April have been. Kicking off with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over a superstar's unbridled desire to elsewhere and the quality of the team he's stuck playing with, pegged by most to win between 44-48 games and finish anywhere from 7th to 10th place after little upgrading in the offseason. Concluding with a 57-25 best in the West record and talk as a legit candidate to make the finals. If the Laker season has accomplished anything, it proved one of the oldest cliches in sports: "That's why you play the games."
I could have also gone with the tried and true, "You don't play games on paper." I, however, firmly maintain that technology will one day allow us to actually play the matches on parchment and therefore don't subscribe to that saying.
In any event, this season has been one where much predicted by sports' talking heads went straight down the ol' porcelain. I've heard many a fan talk about how when "the media" (because, you know, the entire industry is one person) gets something wrong, they never admit it. As BK and I have reminded many times, we're not "the media," just two dudes with a media outlet blog. But that doesn't mean I can't buck the "can't man up" trend among my fellow journalists. Therefore, I've dedicated an entire post to bricked statements made in regards to the 2007-2008 Laker season. Without further adieu...
I WAS WRONG WHEN... I said the Lakers would need to trade Kobe Bryant
In fairness, my opinion that The Mamba would require relocation was based entirely on a notion backed 100% by the player in question. The basic idea being that this Laker squad wouldn't be good in ASAP-enough time to satisfy Bryant's wishes, meaning the season would evolve into 82 games worth of eggshell walking and the brass finally realizing that a deal, however unpalatable, was inevitable. This wasn't me "wanting" to trade Kobe, but thinking the situation would demand it. But then came the fortuitous sucker punch that nobody, including Bryant, ever predicted, prompting The Mamba to evaluate his franchise as possessing all the pieces necessary. Bully for Kobe, the Lakers and Lakers fans alike.
I WAS WRONG WHEN... I felt Kobe wouldn't be emotionally invested enough to lead this team.
Clarifying note: This wasn't me predicting Kobe would either hold out (an occurrence I considered less likely than Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph meshing) or phone in the season (not a guy wired with such 24/7 competitiveness). What I'm talking about was Kobe competing hard, but flipping the "detached" switch the minute games ended (because of issues cited above), which would prevent him serving as a true leader. Whether citing a Media Day where he exhibited the enthusiasm of a patient awaiting a proctology exam or a preseason treated with obvious disinterest, I figured Kobe's regular season would operate on a very high level of autopilot. Then came Phil Jackson calling him out. Then came Kobe turning it on in convincing fashion from the regular season opening bell, well before Andrew Bynum truly came into his own (much less Pau Gasol's arrival). I don't know for sure why the 180 degree sea change happened, but to some degree, it doesn't really matter. Whatever the spark, Kobe deserves credit for handling this aspect of the situation with total professionalism.
I WAS WRONG WHEN... I predicted that Derek Fisher would help this team more in the locker room than on the court.
I never doubted the Threepeat Club member would be an upgrade over a certain Mr. Sunshine when it came to point guards providing a voice of calm, respect-laden reason. In my time covering sports, I've encountered few athletes with a vibe of instant credibility matching Fisher's. Whether interacting with teammates or the media, he can always be counted on for introspective viewpoints and straightforward honesty. Along those truth telling lines, I also pegged Fish as considerably better suited for a backup role and wasn't terribly confident about the 33-year old's prospects playing 27-30 mpg, especially coming off his worse season as a starter. As it turns out, he's done a more than capable job, offering 11 ppg, heady decisions on the floor and, if not quite lockdown D, continual effort on that side of the ball. When you compare his season to Smush Parker's by the numbers alone, they're actually strikingly identical. From there, it's all strikingly different.
I WAS WRONG WHEN... I figured the Laker bench would remain as inconsistent in 2008 as 2007.
Whether Jordan Farmar, Andrew Bynum, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Vlad Radmanovic or Ronny Turiaf (who began the season slated to start the four but injuries forced him to play backup center), not a single pine dude who'd put together anything resembling a consistent season in Laker Land. Between the inexperience on hand or some reasonably well established track record of erratic performances, I figured another season of second unit shakiness was on the horizon. In no time flat, they jelled into "The Bench Mob," among the NBA's best. This transformation was due in large part to the drastic improvement of Jordan Farmar (who chose gym ratting over pouting when Fish was signed and Javaris Crittenton was drafted) and Bynum. The pair formed a legit inside-outside threat that allowed the others more room to operate and succeed. In particular, one constant flourished to such a high degree that he merited separate mention...
I WAS WRONG WHEN... I doubted Sasha Vujacic was talented enough to contribute at the NBA level.
As Lakersblog readers who've been around from the start are well aware, I've always rooted for Sasha to put together a solid season, since he's a nice kid who busts his ass. As these same readers are also well aware, I've never been terribly confident that season would actually happen, but happily awaited the need to admit I was wrong. And here we are. Sasha's gone from a player I rarely wanted player I rarely wanted on the floor during minutes of moderate importance to among the more steady Lakers with a game in the balance. Maybe it was the new hippie locks, being labeled a "Machine" or finally learning to play under control on either side of the ball (I'm voting for the third option), but whatever the impetus, Vujacic is finally garnering mention from the K Brothers for more than his foul-protesting physicality. Thankfully, "The Face" hasn't actually abandoned the "elbows in/palms out/look of disbelief," because what would be the fun in that?
I WAS (BASICALLY) WRONG WHEN... I told reader "John Michael" in May '07 his Kwame/LO/Evans (expiring contract) for Gasol/Mike Miller was too one-sided in the Lakers' favor to happen.
Technically speaking, I was correct. But considering Kwame/The Critter/Stuff Mitch Kupchak found at a garage sale for Gasol is essentially the above proposal minus a "name" on either side, I hardly came out of the statement looking like my finger was on Griz GM Chris Wallace's pulse.
Having just scrambled all the egg on my face into a humble pie omelet, I thought I deserved to at least bring up A FEW ITEMS I DID INDEED CALL CORRECTLY.
Andrew Bynum would become a high caliber center. (For the sake of extreme accuracy, I didn't see it happening for another season or so, but I never doubted it would eventually happen).
That trading Bynum/LO for JO or Bynum/every big on the roster for Kidd would have been terrible deals. If we've learned one thing during the last year, it's that Kobe is an all-time great player who'd make an all-time disastrous GM. I don't think he's got any immediate desire to switch day jobs, which should allow everyone to breathe easy.
Lamar Odom would be a fantastic asset once the word "second" was no longer attached to his role. For so long, the Lakers were cramming a square peg into a round hole with Lamar, as opposed to figuring out a way he could play within his comfort zone, which has ironically turned him into an increasingly prolific scorer. If for no other reason than allowing BK to live his life without hearing me bitch 24/7 about how the Caron Butler deal not only weakened the Lakers, but also LO's effectiveness, Bynum's emergence and Pau's arrival have been multi-faceted positives.
Oh, and if I can add one more to the "futures" section of the right column. I've been saying for months, whether on the blog, the Purple, Gold and Blue podcasts, or The Steve Mason Show, that Kobe should and will win MVP this year. I'm still treating this as a correct prognostication waiting to happen.