The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Mark Medina tackle some Laker questions
The Lakers are officially underway. They're finally playing basketball, providing glimpses of how the roster might shape up and giving the fans of the L.A. Times' Lakers blog something to keep them from going insane (or so I hope).
But this is one game. As much as I detailed five things to take away from the Lakers' 111-92 loss Monday to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it's one exhibition game. I don't want to say my post was a waste of time to read and write, but you have to take it for what it is. The Lakers have seven remaining pre-season games and the ring ceremony/opening night isn't until Oct. 26 against Houston.
That leaves time for The Times' Mike Bresnahan and myself to dive into a few questions after the jump.
What will be the Lakers' regular season record?
Bresnahan: The Lakers will win more often than last season for the simple reason that the West is a shadow of its former self. (A quick thank you and goodnight to Phoenix, Utah and also Denver if Carmelo skips town ... and I'm not even going to mention how old San Antonio looked last season.) The Lakers will be 61-21, a four-game improvement.
Medina: 67-15. The Lakers fall short of 72 wins yet again, but the team, media and fans shouldn't be worried about it. As much as it is a nice motivating tool to get them through the regular season, the Lakers take the right approach in making sure they don't burn out before the playoffs even begin.
Who is the Lakers' toughest Western conference opponent?
Bresnahan: Conventional wisdom says Dallas, but who wants to be boring and conventional? I'll take Oklahoma City, which almost ran the Lakers out of the first round and had two of the top players on this year's Team USA (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook).
Medina: Well now I'm boring and conventional because I'm taking Brez's pick as well. As the Lakers saw last season, the Thunder has the youth and athleticism to give the Lakers a good test. OKC is now more experienced, including Durant and Westbrook putting work in with Team USA during the 2010 FIBA World Championships. The fact that OKC pushed the Lakers to six games in the first round last season surely gives the Thunder confidence they can further push the envelope.
Who is the Lakers' toughest Eastern Conference opponent?
Bresnahan: Some say Miami. I say Boston. Let's not forget how the Celtics were half a quarter from winning the title a few months ago. And I like the additions of Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal to add to Kendrick Perkins' beef down low when he returns from a knee injury near the season's midpoint.
Medina: I would say Miami simply on its talent level. But I think the Heat will fall short simply because of chemistry issues that are almost inevitable when constructing a talented team. Though the Celtics' window of opportunity is closing, they still have the pieces to try to avenge the 2010 Finals loss.
Will the Lakers three-peat?
Bresnahan: (Pause. Long pause. Excruciatingly long pause.) Yes ... I think. Mitch Kupchak did a solid job turning a subpar bench trio of Adam Morrison, DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell into Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Theo Ratliff. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol should be rested coming into the season, unlike the last couple of years. It should all be enough to hold off the Celtics or Miami in the Finals, not to mention the frighteningly young Thunder in the West.
Medina: Yes. As easy as it might be for the Lakers to be complacent after back-to-back titles, there are several elements that will help make a three-peat possible. The team is well-rested. The Lakers will want to win one for Phil Jackson's supposed last season. They'll want to prove that Miami isn't a super team. And the team added new faces, which should give them some spark.
-- Mark Medina
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