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Lakers a popular choice in summertime forecasts

Crystal ball ESPN.com has over the past couple of weeks published a variety of predictions and prognostications pulled together from a cast of 53 of their finest basketball minds- listen to us lament our lack of inclusion here- in preparation for the upcoming season. They were the overwhelming choice among the panelists to win their third straight Western Conference title. On the Grand List of Bold Predictions, this ranks relatively low, between "Mad Men will win multiple Emmys this year," and "McDonald's will sell a fair number of burgers."

Yes, the Spurs, Blazers, and Nuggets should all be taken very seriously and have the talent to unseat the purple and gold atop the conference... but assuming good health for all involved (won't happen, but in forecasting I've always found it best to judge by a team's best possible roster), it's tough to lay odds on any other team but the Lakers.Not with my money, at least.

Of course, the locals don't simply want another W.C. banner (no point, since they don't hang 'em anyway), but another Larry O'Brien. To that end, there's more variety in the ESPN ranks. Still, 19 of the 53 voters (36%) think they'll get it. A smattering of reasons provided by the voters:

"...Two words: Phil Jackson. He's never won a championship without winning two more in succession. He's the master of the unique challenge of keeping his team both motivated and refreshed while defending a championship...

"...If you were choosing a squad to play pickup ball in Bed-Stuy or to win an NBA championship, and you had to choose between Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest to have on your team, who would you choose? Which one would damn near guarantee victory? That's what I thought, too. That's what the Lakers thought. That's why they'll repeat..."

"...Behold the Lakers. Kobe Bryant -- say no more. Phil Jackson -- ditto. But also Pau Gasol, who has solved the riddle of producing versus NBA playoff physicality, the big-hearted Derek Fisher, promising Andrew Bynum. Not only are they the presiding champions, but I'm in the camp that suspects they got vastly better by essentially trading Trevor Ariza for a hungry and motivated Ron Artest. Be afraid..."

"...Having witnessed first the assassin-like focus of Michael Jordan in the '90s, I see the same glare in Kobe's eyes. No question he's got the talent, but he's also got that intangible "killer instinct" that maybe LeBron James doesn't have..."

And one comment about why they won't. Like most of the concerns about LA's dreams to repeat, it centers around how well Artest will fit as a replacement for Ariza. Namely, that he won't:

"...Anyone who has watched Artest closely over the last few years will attest to the following; he's not nearly as strong an on-the-ball defensive player as he used to be, specifically defending dribble-drives (he's still good at chasing shooters around screens). And he has voluntarily taken more poor perimeter shots than almost anyone in the NBA. Life always gets more dramatic when he's around. Maybe Jackson and Kobe can get him to fall in line, but if they can, they'd be the first to be successful at it in a long time..."

Among those not going the way of Kobe and Co.,18 (34%) think LeBron James and his Cavs will dethrone the Lakers. San Antonio (8 votes), Boston (5), and Orlando (3) round things out.

All in all, if this crowd has any wisdom, it's safe to feel good about the '09-'10 season (if you weren't already). Nearly 80% of ESPN's pantheon of experts has the Lakers in the Finals, 36% say they'll win the whole enchilada. Obviously none of it really matters until games actually start, but wouldn't you rather spend the summer dreaming another title, realistic and achievable, as opposed to, say, the '10 draft lottery?

A few more thoughts on this and other items:

  • I meant it when I said the Lakers will have some competition this year. I like the Jefferson move for San Antonio- considering what they gave up to get him, it can't make them worse- and love what they did for their depth in Antonio McDyess and DuJuan Blair. Portland won't win as many games as the Lakers, but are getting better and still provide all sorts of matchup questions.
  • I can see both good and bad regarding how Vince Carter fits in Orlando, but assuming it goes well, all three E.C. titans have improved. Keeping Marcin Gortat was a luxury, but gives the Magic serious frontcourt depth while adding Brandon Bass helps as well, filling a role they didn't really have last season. My guess is once again they'll be third in the hearts and minds of media types when breaking down the E.C., but could very well be back in the Finals come next June. I think Rasheed Wallace fits like a glove in Boston, and believe the addition of Shaq makes Cleveland better, while adding role players like Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon gives the LeBronaliers more versatility and plugs holes. Bottom line, all three teams are viable Finals choices, though I like Orlando and Cleveland more than Boston.
  • The qualifier above notwithstanding, can you really assume good health for San Antonio? Is it even worth the trouble? Are they the exception to the rule? Fortunately for the Spurs, it only really matters if they're healthy in April.
  • The LA Times language related blue laws make it impossible for me to link to the ongoing feature, but if you happened to Google "NBA Logo Rankings Project," I'm willing to be you'll be entertained.
  • All I need is speed, height, jumping ability, handle, larger hands, a general boost in athleticism, a buddy to jump over, and my own ball, and then I could totally do this.
BK
 
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Lakers just need to stay healthy and focused.

more thoughts:

-- orlando is getting way too much credit... hedo was the focal point of that offense and their main go to guy... vince has never been a clutch go to guy (in fact he shies away from pressure) and has never ever proved he can be a good fit for any championship team. whos gonna shoot the ball with 10 seconds left in the game?? they also lost lee who was their perimeter defender.

-- cavs are totally screwed... its just a matter of time before that ship implodes. shaq is too bigheaded and will never accept the fact hes no better than a role player.. if he would play defense rebound and run down the court maybe but soon enough he'll pouting and asking for the rock and when he gets his touches that team is doomed. shaqs is gonna slow down the crabron show, block his driving lanes and they'll be totally vulnerable against faster teams and esp against the pick n roll.

-- portland could be a serious force only if oden can stay healthy and that s a big if

-- spurs. they got so many new parts too hard to tell how good they'll be. duncan will definitely be ready in the playoffs but jefferson/ginobli/mcdyss are made of glass. even if they're healthy dont look that formidable. they also lost their hacking machine bowen.

-- boston concerns me the most and probably the only team capable of beating lakers in a 7 game series. they got too many questions marks with healthy though and if rasheed is motivated than we got some problems. marquis daniels on that team also scares me and is also a very underrated pickup.

VERDICT: LAKERS 2010 NBA CHAMPS. ONLY 36% VOTERS FROM BSPN. CHILD, PLEASE

Good stuff guys. Yeah I read this same article with great delight and I suprisingly agreed with almost every point. D-fish is a concern and Artest is either a big plus or a bad minus. We got the best lineup if we stay healthy and Kobe and PJ should be enough to elevate us to another finals bid.

What I didn't like however is the 'if everyone's healthy assumption'. Sure to make a prediction you kinda gotta assume some things for the sake of conversation. But let's be real about something though. I know Shaq had a great year last year, a fantastic year in fact. And his contract is about to run out so clearly he's going for one last payday. But would you put your money on Shaq playing 80 plus games this season? Or KG, or Tim Duncan/Ginobli, or any of the leaders on teams that need them to get home court advantage in the playoffs? Thats the biggest piece to the puzzle! Not whether or not Fish is old or Artest is going in the stands.

kblitz

sorry to say but unless you had a time machine then you are not right. unless you can blast to the past and put kobe against the pistons offense or shaq against kareem then how in the world can you say you're right about todays players and zone defense?? and in case you havent noticed its 2009 and we're not living in the 80s anymore.

and yes i will stand by my opnion that bruce bowen is the biggest hacking machine of all time. i will give him some credit for totally circumventing nba defensive rules with his grabbing poking shoving tripping away from the ball but it ends there... and of course i'd root for him if he was on the lakers but that dont mean it aint dirty. but to put bowens defense in the same breath as kobes defense is completely asenine and wreaks of haterade again.


I think the Spurs are the best competition for us in the West. However, I don't think Jefferson necessarily fits that offense. The guy benefited from his years with J. Kidd. Tony Parker isn't that sort of point guard necessarily.

The big question mark I have for them is Manu. Timmy is the base of their offense, but Manu is the perimeter yin to his yang in the half court. I think that he is getting somewhat old. Popovich being as smart as he has proven to be, will probably rest his guys quite a bit, so I don't see homecourt advantage for them if they were to meet the Lakers.

However, if there is any team that can face the boat-rocking adversity that a matchup with a championship-caliber Lakers entails, its one lead by Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich.

"vince has never been a clutch go to guy (in fact he shies away from pressure)"

http://tinyurl.com/maoxnd

Vince Carter, second most game winners from 2003-2009 (02/09) with 16.

18th in the league in terms of clutch in 2008-2009 and beating out notable people from Manu Ginobili and even beating out Mr. Big Shot Chauncey Billups.

Once again yellofever not thinking with his head it seems.

1. In A-Gada-Da-Vida?

2. I'm annoyed by Jordan Farmar's number change to "#1" because a) #1 implies he's the best b) The best thing Jordan could do right now is be more humble, not more headstrong c) Jordan is known for being headstrong

3. Kamenetzky Brothers, I'm sorry guys, but ESPN is filled with a bunch of dopes. I believe little of what they say. They're talking heads and personalities, not real journalists (generally speaking).

4. I was watching an interview of Shaq yesterday in which he was discussing Michael Jordan (and it was filled with highlight clips of MJ being, well, "jordanesque") and then they switch to the tediously eventual question of when LeBron James would eclipse Michael Jordan as a player, to which Shaq said, "Soon" and "He will!" However, I noted a few things: a) Shaq's response seemed forced as if he was giving the correct answer, but not an honest answer b) They showed highlight clips of LeBron during this series of questioning and they were bland by comparison to Michael Jordan. LeBron hits an open jumper; Jordan slices through three defenders, while moving the ball between his hands and finally making an impossible reverse layup. There was just no comparison. I'm truly amazed that there is a LeBron versus Michael Jordan argument out there right now. Jordan has six rings; LeBron has zero rings and hasn't even hit 20,000 points yet. Where's the room for argument? It all sounds like pure madness to me.

5. People are worried about Thriller being toxic in the locker room. They should be far more concerned about Shaq being toxic in the locker room.

6. Make no mistake, East Coast Bias is alive and well in sports journalism. For people in the Eastern Standard Time zone, anything West of Chicago is somehow less valid. So, in reading the "testimony" of these "experts" keep in mind that they will undervalue anything that comes out of the West.

7. I sure hope the Bruins beat the Volunteers this Saturday. Tennessee's head coach sounds like a real idiot.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

FROM MANHATTAN, NY

HELLO GUYS,

We will repeat this coming season, there's no doubt about it. Focus will be the key this season, no time of laisser-aller cause the competition will be hard with those improved teams.

FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS=REPEAT


LOVE AND PEACE TO ALL


SHEKOBE FOREVER

yellofever,


Thanks for the props about Ron on last thread. He will be our enforcer and intimidator.


Excellent post this thread. I agree re Orlando. Give me Hedo any day over Vinsanity.
And your take on the Cavs is right on also. They will still be a 1-man crew that won’t make it to the finals. In fact, I think LeBron is going to be to Kobe like Dommonique Wilkins was to MJ – a great talent who could never make it to the NBA Finals and will ultimately be lost in Kobe’s big shadow.


The only matchup that makes sense is Boston. That’s the one you and I both want – and another chance to win it on Boston’s home court. That is the frosting on this year’s victory cake.


Tom

"...Having witnessed first the assassin-like focus of Michael Jordan in the '90s, I see the same glare in Kobe's eyes. No question he's got the talent, but he's also got that intangible "killer instinct" that maybe LeBron James doesn't have..."

I'll correct that: "that LeBron James DOESN'T have."

During the 2008 season LeBron choked on two games in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. He LITERALLY lost two games in a seven game series and gave the Celtics the NBA Finals.

But wait, there's more!

Not shaking the hands of the Magic after being beaten in the 2009 playoffs? Confiscating videotape of being dunked on by a college player?

Does ANYONE on this blog think that Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant would have responded in the same way if they were in LeBron's shoes?

Hell no!

You see, LeBron is so concerned about how HE looks and what HE accomplishes that these things are actually more important to him than winning. You see, LeBron EXPECTS to win because he's been brainwashed since he was a kid that he will just naturally win because he's King James! MJ and Kobe don't think that way. Sure, they're big egoed competitive lunatics, but for them victory is something that is TAKEN, while LeBron thinks it's something that is GIVEN simply due to his status as King James.

I mean, all this discussion of whether or not LeBron James is at Michael Jordan's level has got to screw with LeBron's head. WHAT HAS HE ACCOMPLISHED? ONE MVP! ONE M-V-P! THAT'S IT!!!

How many players have more rings than LeBron James? Hundreds?

How many players have more points, assists, steals, OR rebounds than LeBron James? I don't know. Close to a hundred maybe?

How many players have more MVPs than LeBron? (Again, I haven't checked my stats here.) What? Like a dozen?

So where's the comparison? I don't even see it in his play. When I see highlights of Michael Jordan, I'm reminded of Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, David Thompson... not LeBron James. This is the most artificial, marketing/media machine generated debate EVER!

I can't wait to watch the Cavs lose next season.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!!

Lakers just got themselves tougher competition in both East and West. And to me that is what Artest hiring is all about, he will play much better in a Championship team, playing alonside kObe, Kobe will pushed Artest to be the best player he can be, better than all the Artest we've ever seen.

Phil sill make sure of it too.

The coach will get every strength of Artest, even Artest does not knwo he has. I am pretty sure he will use him like he did Scottie Pippen.

Andrew Bynum will be an all-star center this year. Yes, I am the first to say it..

Bynum, Gasol, Odom, Artest and Kobe (dominant half court)

Odom, Artest, Kobe, Brown and Farmar (running team).

Gasol,Powell, Luke, Adam, Fisher (the trianlge team)

Blitz

Once again u reach to the annals of nbas encyclopedia and resort to more meaningless and irrelevant stats. Nothing wrong with that but how many of those game winners had anything on the line besides a meaningless regular season game

Vincesanity has never proved anything during the playoffs in his entire career. Put a little playoff pressure on his fragile ego esp playing for an nba finals team and he'll just fold like a camping chair

He has never handled real pressure well esp as the main main so I see any reason to think he will. Of course I don't enjoy watching any chokejobs unless boston is involved so I would love for him to prove me wrong

"Andrew Bynum will be an all-star center this year. Yes, I am the first to say it.." -Staples24

Its been mentioned earlier too! :) I remember talking about Bynum becoming an All-Star and how it might be easier for him to do it since Shaq went east and Yao may be out all season.

"Of course I don't enjoy watching any chokejobs unless boston is involved so I would love for him to prove me wrong"

Then what about Game 4 2008 Finals? Sasha choked but Kobe wasn't exactly putting great production either. Or Game 6? Vince is nowhere as clutch as Kobe but he has but up more game winners in 2003-2008 than Kobe has. And before the arrival of Pau Gasol Kobe has only been in the first round while Vince made it to the 2nd by himself.

"unless you can blast to the past and put kobe against the pistons offense"

Hmm a similar thing h happened in the 2004 NBA Finals when he shot 38% didn't he against the great defender they call Tayshaun Prince!

No disrespect to Kobe but that Pistons team was nowhere as good as Isiah's Pistons. If he shot like that against Tayshaun Prince, Rodman and Dumars would have made him seem like a rookie. In fact Bryant/Wade/Lebron would be averaging nowhere as good as they did against that defense.

"can you say you're right about todays players and zone defense??"

Go check if ANY TEAM runs specifically zone defense all the time save for the Golden State Warriors. Heck you can't even run the type of zones that would work because of defensive 3 seconds. So PROVE ME WRONG and show that today's rules don't benefit more the perimeter player than every before. If you can prove me wrong and show detailed evidence that the rules don't favor perimeter I"m more than willing to shut my mouth. Until then stop the crying. 2004 Detroit Pistons to them, zone was a dirty word. And yes the 08 Celtics never used zone, they used a MAN defense.


Jon K.,

I had to come out of my off season hiatus to say Amen brother Amen!

The media keeps trying to turn the page on Kobe but it will not be turned. As long as Kobe Bryant is playing basketball he will be the best. Yes, Lebron James is a very good basketball player but as you've said what has he accomplished, 1 MVP. Dwayne Wade would present a better argument than Lebron and Melo still isn't in the discussion. And you are right, both Boston and Orlando are going to be better than Cleveland this year.

And the Lakers are going to be off the charts. Once they got Artest, who's here cause he wants to win a ring, the Lakers became a beast.

The ESPN Lebron hype machine rolls on, but those of us who aren't sheep know championships defines the greatest of the great, not just stats (if you got the damn ball in your hands 95% of the time, make 47% of your shots and every play is called for you why wouldn't you dominant statistically). Stats can be misleading but championships can't. MJ got 6, Kobe got 4, Wade even has 1, and Lebron has 0. But he's already in the conversation of greatest of all time. Yeah right!

Glad to know you're not a sheep brother. It's good to know that there are still those who look at the facts and not the hype before deciding who's great!

Jon K,
"...victory is something that is TAKEN..."

Like the way Kobe grabbed the ball from Dwight's grasp in the Finals? Or like the way Kobe wrestled Dwight to the ground to prevent a dunk? It's so nice to reminisce, isn't it? And it's so nice to think that we have an uber-champ on our team, none other than the Mamba! Can't wait for the season to start.

Staples24,
"Odom, Artest, Kobe, Brown and Farmar (running team)"

Don't forget that Pau Gasol can also run (and handle the ball well) so he'll likely be the center of this combo. One of the guards will be out.

I really don't know why people think Turk is better than VC..I would take a 32 year old, title hungry, VC over an overrated scorer/"playmaker" in Turk..people forget how good VC is in handling the ball and making people around him better..even in his Toronto days, i could always see him doing the ball handling and playmaking late in the 4th. Add to that the fact that he hasn't really been in a team this talented, and a MONSTER in Dwight Howard..things should definitely be different.. 8-time all star with 20-5-5 in Vince to an almost all star with 19-5-5 in Turk..common, is this even a debate?seriously people..MAGIC in 2009-2010.

Team chemistry should be an advantage for LA...w/ the exchange of Artest and Ariza, i see no change because both players know fully well that doing the little things not reflected in the scoreboard is the key to success...with the inclusion of a number of players in SA, Denver, Cleveland and Orlando, I see the Celtics (if their 33+ bodies hold up) as LA's most probable opponents in the 2010 finals...Duncan is aging, Anthony has not developed into the kind of player all want him to be, Shaq will be the opponents favorite come end games and Howard has not developed a short-to-medium range jumper that could add to his uni-faceted game...Jefferson/McDyess, Parker/Moon and Vince Carter are not sure igniters in their respective teams because it will take time for them to adjust...w/ Bynum's development having been stalled for the past 2 years, its now his turn to show his true talent...go KB24, PGas, DFish, LO, DrewB, RonArt, LukeWalt, JorFar, AdMor, MachineGun, ShannonB, TGaff, Mbenga, JoshP, ChineE....go LA!!!


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