LA Lakers: 10 Bold Predictions for Kobe Bryant and Mike Brown's First Season
And although the season is starting two months later than expected and will be 16 games shorter than usual, there is just as much anticipation and mystery surrounding the start of this season as any other.
While we wait anxiously for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to hit the floor and Mike Brown to make his Hollywood coaching debut, here are 10 bold predictions for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
10. Metta World Peace Will Be Suspended for Tweeting
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During halftime of a game this season, Metta World Peace will post a boneheaded tweet to his followers, resulting in a two-game suspension from David Stern.
While the Lakers will largely laugh it off, it will provide plenty of fodder for all of the sports talk shows.
9. Matt Barnes and Steve Blake Will Bounce Back in a Big Way
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The Los Angeles Lakers’ two prized signings in the summer of 2010, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake, were disappointments in their first season in Los Angeles.
Blake had his lowest scoring average and field-goal percentage since the 2004-05 season. Barnes, thanks to a mid-season knee injury and playing as few minutes per game as he had since 2007-08, played inconsistently all season.
But playing under a new offensive scheme and a likely increase in playing time, I look for Barnes and Blake bounce back this season and remind everyone why they were excited about the duo wearing purple and gold in the first place.
8. Phil Jackson Will Express His Opinion
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Right around Valentine’s Day, a story will be leaked that will have Phil Jackson giving his opinion on the progress of this season’s Lakers team.
And odds are, knowing Jackson’s history for cajoling people through the media, it will be a passive-aggressive, backhanded sort of compliment.
7. The Team's Young Guns Could Play a Bigger Role Than You Think
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For the first time in many seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers have plenty of in-house talent to develop.
Led by rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock and sophomores Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, the Los Angeles Lakers may not be looking as old this season as one might imagine.
Under Mike Brown, the youngsters will get more of a chance than they would have with Phil Jackson, who kept his young, unproven players on a tight leash.
And while it’s a bit of a stretch to think all four players will have an impact on a veteran-laden team, there’s no reason to think a couple of them can’t.
I particularly have my eye on Devin Ebanks, who could easily become the team’s full-time backup small forward if the Lakers use the amnesty on Ron Artest.
6. Pau Gasol Will Struggle to Regain the Fans' Trust
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After his dismal performance in the 2011 postseason, Pau Gasol will be looking to prove to his teammates and fans the poor stretch of play was an aberration.
Gasol has always had a tough time shaking off the “soft” tag so many fans have labeled him with. And that's when Gasol was at the top of his game.
Now, unless Gasol plays like the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain every night, it will be even tougher following his meltdown last spring.
5. Andrew Bynum Will Make His First All-Star and All-NBA Team This Season
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Building on the stellar end he had to last season, in which he averaged 12 rebounds and two blocks in 22 games after the All-Star break, Andrew Bynum will make his first All-Star team this season, in addition to the All-NBA Third Team.
For the first time in ages, Bynum will stay away from the dreaded injury bug. His overall play will greatly benefit.
4. Derek Fisher Will Not Start One Game for the Team This Season
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Between now and when the Los Angeles Lakers face the Chicago Bulls on Christmas Day, the team will find a new starting point guard, whether it be through trade, free agency or trying their luck with Steve Blake.
But don’t worry, D-Fish will still be in purple and gold, serving as the team’s backup and playing in crucial moments come playoff time.
3. Kobe Bryant Will Take the High Road All Season When Asked About Mike Brown
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Much has been made this offseason about what kind of relationship Kobe Bryant and new head coach Mike Brown will have.
Some predict the two will not get along, due to the fact the team didn’t consult Bryant before hiring Brown, and because few believe there isn’t a coach not named Phil Jackson who can harness such a strong-headed superstar like Kobe.
But I wouldn’t hold your breath hoping for a blowup between superstar and head coach this season.
I fully expect Kobe to take the high road when speaking about Brown this season, even if times get tough.
After all, Kobe is too mature and established of a player to go back to the days of feuding with others within the organization, right?
It would be a shame for Bryant to regress back to his younger days and possibly tarnish the legacy he has worked so hard to reshape the last few seasons.
2. Kobe Bryant Will Be an MVP Front-Runner at the End of the Season
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As the shortened season progresses, it will become more obvious Kobe’s knee procedure this past summer in Germany paid off.
Thanks to the procedure, Kobe will exhibit more explosiveness than he has since his MVP season in 2008, which will lead to a spike in his offensive numbers.
If the Lakers can somehow manage to claim the top seed in the Western Conference, look for Kobe to surprisingly snag his second MVP award.
1. The Lakers Will Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Conference Finals
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After the Los Angeles Lakers finish with the number two seed behind Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings, the two teams will play one another in the Conference Finals, giving the fans a rematch of their 2010 first-round playoff series.
A determined Kevin Durant will be too much for the Lakers to handle, as he averages 31 points per contest en route to the Thunder defeating the Lakers in seven games.