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Laker fans remain optimistic about championship prospects

November 29, 2011 | 12:33 pm

Pau Gasol

Laker fans will either suffer a rude awakening or feel validated in their unyielding faith in the purple and gold.

Even with a new coach, an aging roster and improved opponents, they still believe the Lakers will win their 17th championship this season. In our online poll, 68.1% of those responding believe the Lakers will carry the Larry O'Brien trophy on a championship parade at season's end.

That's a much better image than that four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks that ended the last Lakers season. The sight of Andrew Bynum clotheslining J.J. Barea, Phil Jackson ending his storied coaching career on a bad note and Mark Cuban celebrating like a rock star remain fresh in the minds of Laker fans. And in this case, that might be a good thing. A plurality of fans (34.5%) believe the motivation from such a poor playoff showing will help make the difference. Also, 62.4% believe the Lakers will win between 50 and 59 games (in a 66-game season, no less); 66% predict the shortened schedule will sharpen the Lakers' focus and improve their rest; 87.1% say Pau Gasol will immediately bounce back from a poor playoff showing; and 71.9% predict Lamar Odom will remain consistent. In something that rarely sparks optimism, 64.1% also believe Bynum will remain injury-free. 

Underneath all these cheery predictions, however, Laker fans anticipate some uncertainties ahead. Even if 61.5% say Kobe Bryant will benefit from the extra off-season rest and an innovative procedure on his right knee, they acknowledge the Lakers' star still has to properly manage his body. A 43.3% plurality believes new Coach Mike Brown will face a wide range of challenges, including convincing his players to embrace his system, having a good relationship with Bryant and proving he can handle the pressure. And as for the player formerly known as Ron Artest? Let's just say not many Laker fans will give World Peace a chance.  A 57.7% majority  believe he'll simply have a different name, but the same game. 

There are also some disagreements on how the Lakers should manage their personnel, mainly at point guard. Though a 44.1% plurality agree they need to upgrade at point guard, Laker fans remain conflicted on who should start. A 31.9% plurality argue that Derek Fisher should keep the job until he plays poorly, whiles other clamor for Steve Blake (26.6%) and even Darius Morris (24.1%). 

Clearly, Laker fans don't believe the season will be easy, particularly with many believing the Miami Heat (78.56%) and Oklahoma City Thunder (57.49%) will give them trouble. But they're optimistic the Lakers will find a way to overcome all those obstacles. 


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--Mark Medina

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Photo: When last we saw Lakers power forward Pau Gasol, he was battling future NBA champion Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)