Why Lakers won't make 2012 NBA Finals
The Times' Lakers beat writers Mike Bresnahan and Ben Bolch, as well as myself, all agree on one thing: The Lakers won't win the NBA championship. They also won't even make it to the NBA Finals.
Before you pelt us all with tomatoes, don't get mad at us. Get mad at the Lakers for fielding a veteran-laden roster and trading away Lamar Odom. After reading our explanations below, you'll also understand we have pretty good reason to feel pretty pessimistic about the purple and gold.
What will be Lakers' regular season record?
Bresnahan: We all know the Lakers are an old team. We all know it's a compressed schedule. I think I know what this means. 42-24 sounds about right.
Bolch: 46-20. They still have one of the top cores in the NBA with Kobe, Bynum, and Gasol. But they're not an unbeatable team as they appeared to be in the past three seasons. Kobe's getting older. Gasol was halfway out the door. And the depth isn't there anymore.
Medina: 44-22. Forget the Lakers' motivation from the poor showing in last season's playoffs and apparent willingess to buy into Mike Brown. The Lakers have too many issues, and not enough time to correct them.
Who is the Lakers' toughest Western Conference opponent?
Bresnahan: Oklahoma City. They're the antithesis of the Lakers. Young, young, young.
Bolch: Oklahoma City. The Thunder has arrived at earsplitting decibals. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook give OKC an unstoppable duo. A slimmer Kendrick Perkins will no longer have any trouble getting up and down the court. Serge Ibaka will be a one-man swat force and will shore up any of his teammates' defensive lapses.
Medina: Dallas. I thought the Mavericks were a one-hit wonder. But then the Lakers traded Lamar Odom to the defending champs. The Lakers' front office move will bring in a Larry O'Brien trophy. But it will be shipped to Dallas, not L.A.
Who is the Lakers' toughest Eastern Conference opponent?
Bresnahan: Miami or Chicago. Chicago or Miami. I'll go with Chicago because of superior depth.
Bolch: Miami. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will become the Bigger Three in year two. Shane Battier provides a defensive presence that was lacking last season. Sixth man Udonis Haslem is healthy for the first time in a year.
Medina: The Heat. Yes, it was presumptuous for LeBron and Company to guarantee multiple championships. But they went through all the scrutiny and chemistry issues last season to make them more prepared for another run. This time, James won't be a disappearing act.
What's the biggest concern entering the season?
Bresnahan: Let's see. Bynum's knees. Kobe's wrist. Pau Gasol's mind-set. No Lamar Odom. A new coaching staff. Trying to squeeze one more year out of veteran shooters Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy. Trying to squeeze anything out of Metta World Peace. Looks like a seven-way tie for biggest concern.
Bolch: Lack of vision. It's obvious this isn't the roster team management wanted to put on the court. What is the psychological fallout for Pau Gasol and company knowing they weren't the players Mitch Kupchak wanted to fo forward with this season?
Medina: It won't matter if the Lakers try harder this season or immediately pick up on Brown's concepts. Health concerns will make that a moot point. Bynum's knee, Bryant's wrist and energy sapped from a lock-out shortened season will leave the Lakers gasping for breath.
Where will the Lakers finish in the 2011-12 season?
Bresnahan: Unless they add a piece or two via trade, the Western Conference finals sounds about right. Just can't see them getting past Oklahoma City. Don't hate me.
Bolch: I had thought they would be an early pick to win it all. Things changed dramatically. They lost their depth with the Odom trade and they didn't get the marquee player they were hoping to acquire. They'll be second-round losers for the second consecutive season.
Medina: The Lakers will get swept in the semifinals against Dallas. Magic Johnson will call for Jerry Buss to "blow this team up." And Bryant will call the past season "a waste of his life." Wait, didn't that happen last season? Yes, and it's happening again.
-- Mark Medina
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