Well it's here—the morning after opening night. Let the predictions fly! I'm here grounded in reality. The only thing more absurd than attempting to predict an MVP when half the NBA hasn't so much as played a regular season game is to predict the record of a single team. Instead, we'll just let it play out, shall we?
I'm here to address a more immediate concern: Reggie Miller predicting the Lakers will begin 20-1 . And here I thought Bill Walton was prone to hyperbole?
Yesterday, after the game, Ernie Johnson and my favorite team in the NBA discussed the possibility of the Lakers going 20-1. When Ernie went over the schedule, I noticed a laundry list of teams that were predicted to be inferior to the almighty Los Angeles Lakers. On top of this, the Lakers play sixteen of their next twenty games at home.
One small caveat, however; remember the 2003-2004 Lakers? In the off-season, the Lakers managed to sign God and Jesus for a couple Chicken McNuggets and a house in Glendale. People with more journalistic credibility than Reggie Miller will ever have were predicting the NBA's first 75+ win season. They started out 18-5.
Remember what happened that season? That's right—[expletive] happened. The Mailman claimed worker's compensation, the Kid caught a break, Shaq took full advantage of his 15 sick days, and the only person to play more than 70 games was Gary Payton, who played all 82. Opposing teams brought it, and in 26 games during the regular season (including four very crucial ones in the NBA Finals) the Lakers couldn't take it. End record: A pedestrian 56-26.
The 2009-2010 Lakers are defending champions, meaning, regardless of NBA players and their financially-dependent work ethic, opposing teams will bring their "A" game every night. Even the Blake Griffin-less Clippers brought it within one after a characteristically sloppy Laker 3rd quarter.
The Lakers have every right to be complacent; last night, in the absence of Pau Gasol, they managed to look like a professional team warming up against an NIT bottom seed (which is what it was supposed to look like). However, against teams that are hungry and have some semblance of pride, it will not be as easy to "turn it on" and "turn it off" as the Lakers are fully capable of doing.
This will be a dogfight season, and looking at the Lakers last night, there's only one prediction I can make without sounding like a sensationalist (Reggie), and that's that the Lakers will certainly win more games than they lose.