Prediction time

We’re three days away from the start of training camp, which means it’s time to venture a prediction about how the Lakers will finish this season. Feel free to agree or disagree, but you have to get your prediction in by Monday for it to mean anything in April.

I went through the Lakers’ schedule game by game this afternoon. As usual, there are games that seem like potential traps and games that seem more favorable than they should. I’ll offer my prediction for the season at the bottom of this post.

The bad news is that the Lakers have a good chance of losing their first two games. They open at home Oct. 31 against Phoenix in a national television game, then play at Golden State the next night.

The Warriors will be playing their home opener, the first game of the second Don Nelson era, and will have the benefit of fresh legs and a good night sleep.

It might be the worst back-to-back of the season for the Lakers. The good news is that they could just as easily win their next four games – – and possibly their next seven. One game that should tell a lot about the Lakers is Nov. 10 at home against Detroit.

I have the Lakers going 11-3 in November. Other than the first road game at Golden State, the Lakers’ potential trap games could come at Portland on Nov. 8 (the second game of a back-to-back) and at home against Milwaukee on Nov. 28 (the Bucks open a long trip).

The Lakers’ schedule is unlike any other because they will play 16 of their first 20 games at Staples Center, including a road game against the Clippers. If you follow the formula of winning two-thirds of your home games and splitting on the road, the Lakers would need to open 13-7 to have a shot at 48 wins.

December is a brutal month, with a home game against San Antonio, a back-to-back at Houston and Dallas, followed by a home game against Houston. The Lakers also have a six-game trip built around the Christmas game at Miami. It’s going to be really hard for them to avoid losing the first four games of that trip, which includes a Chicago-Minnesota back-to-back.

One potential trap game could come Dec. 17 against Washington, which is playing the first game of a long trip. I have the Lakers going 8-8 in December, but they can’t give away games on the back end of the long trip against Orlando or Charlotte.

The Lakers should win as many games as they lose in January. They have a trap game Jan. 5 at home against Denver after playing the night before in Sacramento. The Nuggets will be settling into their hotel in Los Angeles before the game against the Kings starts.

But the Lakers get Miami on Jan. 15 at the end of a six-game trip for the Heat. They play a tough back-to-back at San Antonio and Dallas before continuing to Oklahoma City. The Lakers, however, will have a night off before they play the Hornets, who will be playing the second game of a back-to-back after flying in from San Antonio.

I have the Lakers going 8-7 in January. They will start an eight-game trip – – their longest in nearly two decades – – at the end of the month and spend the first 11 days of February on the road. There are three sets of back-to-backs on the trip; the Lakers probably would be happy going 3-5.

One interesting game will come at the end of the trip, Feb. 11 at Cleveland. The Lakers will be desperate to get home but the Cavaliers will be coming off a home game against Miami. Phil Jackson also will be sure to remind the Lakers of their fourth-quarter collapse at Cleveland last season.

I have the Lakers going 7-5 in February, taking a record of 31-23 into the All-Star break. The Lakers could steal a game at Golden State on Feb. 25; the Warriors will be playing the Clippers the day before in Los Angeles.

There’s a really weird four-game trip in early March, starting in Phoenix, then moving on to Minnesota and Milwaukee for a back-to-back, and ending in Philadelphia. It’s very odd to head to the East Coast for only one game. The Lakers then come home to play Dallas, which will have been off for five days before the game.

The Lakers also have a back-to-back at Memphis and New Orleans. It’s these games that are going to make all the difference for a team fighting for playoff seeding in the Western Conference. There’s a trap game on March 30 against Houston, which will be in Los Angeles all week thanks to a game against the Clippers.

An 8-6 March would be perfectly acceptable. The regular season finishes in April with a schedule that has some favorable games. The Lakers get Denver at home April 3 at the end of a stretch in which the Nuggets will play eight of nine games on the road. The Lakers get Phoenix at home April 8 at the end of a four-game trip for the Suns.

I have the Lakers going 6-4 in April. That gives them a final regular-season record of 48-34. They went 45-37 last season and finished seventh in the West. Memphis was the No. 5 seed last season with a 49-33 record.

I don’t see the Lakers cracking the top four in the West – – the Northwest Division champion will be seeded no worse than fourth – – but fifth would not be a bad place to be. The Lakers could play Denver in the first round of the playoffs and possibly have home-court advantage.

A second-round series could bring Dallas, Phoenix or San Antonio. All of those would be epic series, though the Lakers probably would fall short in six or seven games. The biggest challenge to the Lakers finishing fifth, in my mind, comes from Houston, which could win 50 games with the additions of Shane Battier and Bonzi Wells.

Last year, I picked the Lakers to go 41-41. I didn’t expect Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom to each play 80 games. Bryant is coming off knee surgery and Odom is dealing with personal tragedy. The Lakers can’t afford to get off to a slow start with a schedule that has them playing so many home games early.

So it’s 48-34 for me on Sept. 29. Should be an interesting season.

  • Michael Teniente

    LAKERVILLE 2006-2007: 60 WINS!
    By: Michael C. Teniente

    With the basketball season just around the corner (Lakers camp opens Oct, 3), I guess its time to give my analysis of what I expect from the Los Angeles Lakers in this coming season. My expectation is, of course, an NBA Champion. The beginning of the season always starts out with high hopes, especially if youre a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. That isnt an expectation that is based on unrealistic wishful thinking. Why? Because our beloved Los Angeles Lakers have won 8 NBA Championships since 1980, thats why. We have a rich tradition of winning here in Los Angeles, especially the Lakers.

    We have grown accustom to our high expectations. Weve been blessed to be able to watch some of greatest players to have ever put on an NBA uniform.

    George Mikan
    Elgin Baylor
    Jerry West
    Wilt Chamberlain
    Gail Goodrich
    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
    Magic Johnson
    James Worthy
    Jamal Wilks
    Bobby MacAdoo and
    Shaquille ONeil.

    Yes, youve got to admit it, were spoiled NBA fans. We have high expectations. Not being in contention for a basketball championship is unimaginable here in this great city of Los Angeles. Sure there are transition periods when one set of players are replaced by another set of players. Its like the old saying in the Book of the Old Testament:

    Ecclesiastes 1:7
    All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.?

    That pretty much covers the Lakers organization.

    The rivers represent the great players who have passed through the Lakers organization, the sea. Its a continual cyclethey keep coming. The place where the rivers come from is the rich tradition that has been marked with championship glory.

    Thither they return again:
    The Lakers are now in the hands of one, Kobe Bean Bryant. Talk about expectations! We may be watching, potentially, the greatest player the NBA has ever seen. I dont think thats an overstatement. Who else can say, I scored 81 points in an NBA game? Only Wilt Chamberlain, of course. The only question, right now, is: How good is Kobe Bryant? Well, lets take a closer look.

    I knew Kobe was special from the time the Lakers traded Vlade Divac for him. It was just a matter of time before we really got to see this guy in his true glory. That time was delayed because he was overshadowed by the presence of Shaquille ONeal. Not his fault, but, really, ONeal was holding Bryant back.

    The Lakers of 2005-2006 told us a great deal about how special/good Bryant really is. For most of the season the Lakers were struggling to stay 2 maybe 3 games above 500. To the naked eye that was not a good thing. But when you take a closer look, it really is amazing to be able to comprehend just how good Kobe is. Let me put it this way, Smush Parker, Brain Cook, and Chris Mihm. Those were 3 defensive liabilities in the starting line-up that took the court for big portions of the season. It was Kobe Bryant that kept us just above a 500 ballclub with them in the line-up. Eventually Mihm went down and Kwame Brown was inserted into the starting line-up at the 5 spot. The middle of the defensive lane was stabilized. Soon afterwards, Luke Walton replaced Brian Cook, in the starting line-up, and there was improvement there, too. Walton took over the 3 spot, while Lamar Odom moved to the 4 spot.

    Lets start with Kwame Brown. Kwame Brown was nowhere near a fundamentally sound defensive ballplayer last season. Kwame Brown just took up space with his size and muscle, which made teams not attack the middle at free will. Sure he would miss rotations, but that was on occasion as opposed to allowing a constant free lane to the , which was the case when Mihm was in the middle . There is a lot of room for improvement on the defensive end for Kwame Brown.

    Moving on, lets talk about Luke Walton. If the truth is told, hes not much of a defender, either. But compared to Brain Cook it was night and day. Brain Cook just cant play any defense. While Cook was a starter, his man, it seemed, was always scoring big points. Players without scoring reputations were coming up big against the Lakers at the 4 spot with Brian Cook in there. Still, when Mihm went down, the Lakers were able to turn Bryants points into wins while Cook was still in the starting line-up. But we were still struggling against the Blazers, Celtics, Sonics, and other non-contending teams. That seemed to change when Walton was inserted into the starting line-up. Thats how good Kobe Bryant is! He kept the Lakers just above 500 with 3 defensive liabilities. With JUST A LITTLE defensive help (Brown and Walton) we started beating team towards the end of the season on a regular bases. And that was with Smush Parker, the biggest liability of the 3, still in the starting line-up. We all saw what happened against Phoenix in the playoffs. No need to rehash unpleasant memories.

    This coming season, it seems, that Kwame Brown is going to be manning the middle. If we see an improved Kwame Brown on the defensive end of the game, that could be scary! That could spell great things for the Los Angeles Lakers in the coming season. And were only talking about Kwames defense!

    Theres no way we could go through a whole season with Luke Walton being the starting small forward. He is barely above Brain Cook in defense. The difference between Walton and Cook is: Walton plays with his head, while Cook seems to concentrate on his shooting. Concerning Walton, its a good thing that he plays with his head, but it wont get the job done against the better small forwards in the league. Think Josh Howard and the Phoenix SFs. Well have to wait to see what Vlad Rad brings on the defensive end of the game. Theres no way we can expect Vlad Rad to outscore the other teams small forward and think well be successful. The team would have to revolve around Vlad Rad for that to happen, and thats not good for the Lakers success. What I mean by that is that we cant rely on Vlad Rad to do that for us. Thats not realistic unless he becomes another Peja Stojakovic. Thats not out of the question. If that were to happen then, watch out! If he doesnt become another Peja Stojakovic then there has to be a question concerning his defense. But what we also need from the 3 spot is a scoring threat, which I think Vlad Rad will bring. What we need to keep track of is Vlad Rad impact against the better teams to see how effective the Lakers will be. We need to keep track of that as the season goes along.

    Kobe Bryant, with a little help from the defensive end, will take the Lakers a very long way. The end of last season was a little defense,? literally! If the Lakers take it up a notch and communicate from game 1 to the end of the season, there is no reason, whatsoever, why the Lakers couldnt bring Los Angeles another Championship to its rich history.

    With Shammond Williams and Mo Evans I think the Lakers have improved both the point guard and the back-up shooting guard. If Sasha Vujacic can bring a consistent outside shot it only makes us a more flexible team. That, I understand, is a lot of hoping. The expectation is that Vujacic, entering his 3rd season, will find his shot and be effective. What Im really talking about is emotional stability from Vujacic. Its no secret he can shoot, but does he have the emotions/mind to bring it on a consistent base. I think that is a reasonable expectation because as we get older we mature. Its the natural order of life. And as Sasha becomes more mature his shot will go down on a regular bases. Its an emotional/nerves thing. But the Lakers did well to protect against that not happening by bring in Williams and Evans. Those are excellent checks and balances for the coming season.

    As for the big men, it all starts with Lamar Odom. All Lamar Odom has to do is continue from where the regular season ended. That was Lamar being aggressive. Lamar Odom must be the 2nd scoring option without hesitation.

    In the regular season there is room to experiment. Smush Parker and Chris Mihm, in my opinion, are experiments. In other words: Sure, if Phil Jackson must, go ahead and play them in the regular rotations, but as the season progresses they must be played only limited amounts of minutes if their defense is not up to par. Rony Turiaf must be given the chance to see if he can deliver what Mihm doesnt on the defensive end. Jordan Farmar must be given the opportunity to see if he can contribute to the Lakers offense, in terms of creating a more fasted pace brand of basketball, if Parker continues to see himself as a street-baller. Can you imagine that? A streetballer without defensive skills? Thats mind boggling to think he can be a starter in this league. There is no room for a streetballer in this coming Lakers season. We need professional basketball players.

    Last season the Lakers were young. They didnt get a glimpse of their potential until 2/3 of the season was gone. They came together at the end and gave the Suns a push that should have equated to a trip to the next round of the playoffs, minimum. With basically the same personal, and the addition of Vlad Rad, Williams, Evans, and Farmar, the Lakers, it seems logical, can take it to another level. If Odom and Vlad Rad can take some of the scoring pressure off of Bryant, and the defense improves from the building blocks it created at the end of last seasonwell, if that happens, I think were going to see just how good Kobe Bryant really is. Unless theres a complete breakdown, I suspect that is exactly what were going to see.

    Andrew Bynum is gravy. If Bynum comes along earlier rather than laterjust smile and watch our 2006-2007 Los Angeles Lakers enrich our already glorious traditions.

    May God Bless the Los Angeles Lakers with a clarity of mind in which they envision that they must play as a unit. May God Bless them with an injury free season.

    My prediction is, at least, a 60 win season for the Los Angeles Lakers.


  • TheLakers

    51 wins is what i expect.

  • jb

    i believe the lakers will do even better and i have them winning 49 games because of the improved depth of this squad.

  • Ross Pickering

    I’m going for 50+ wins.

  • LJ26

    In reality, it’s gonna be very tough to say how good the Lakers will be this season because of all the questions surrounding the team. Can Kobe still dominate as before? Will Lamar Odom recover from the loss of his son? Can Kwame be a 15-10 guy? Will Jordan Farmar contribute right away? How will Phil Jackson’s hip surgery affect his coaching? Is Andrew Bynum ready for steady minutes?