The Lakers begin their 2013-14 NBA season Tuesday night against the team that is trying desperately to overshadow their fellow Staples Center tenants –the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s a new season and a fresh slate for a Lakers team looking to avenge the disappointment of last year’s drama-plagued “Dwightmare”. Nobody is sure exactly how long the Purple & Gold will be without their captain, Kobe Bryant, but it’s a safe bet to assume he will be gone until at least mid-December, while still recovering from a torn Achilles.
There is a nice combination of new (8) and returning (7) players this year, which on top of a full training camp under head coach Mike D’Antoni, should bring some much needed youth, athleticism, and energy to a Lakers squad that struggled finding easy points last season. Newcomers Nick Young, Xavier Henry, and Wesley Johnson should provide length and quickness on the perimeter, something the Lakers could have really used last year. Jordan Farmar returns to Los Angeles to help Steve Nash and Steve Blake shore up the point guard position; and Chris Kaman will help fill the void left by Dwight Howard alongside Pau Gasol. With all that being said, here are 14 Bold Predictions for the 2013-14 Lakers season:
1. Kobe Will Return On or After Christmas.
There has yet to be a confirmed date as to when #24 will return to action, but we do know he is taking it easy on the Achilles, after finally being able to do some light cardio work. Coming back around Christmas will still shatter the mold in terms of the rehab length for athletes who have tried to come back from this particular injury.
2. Steve Nash Will Play Less Than 41 Games.
The season has yet to begin and there are already concerns about the soon to be 40-year old point guard. The signing of Jordan Farmar definitely helps lessen the work load on Nash, but he seems to be much more brittle since leaving the magical training staff of the Phoenix Suns.
3. Pau Gasol Will Average At Least 20 PPG and 10 RPG.
Pau has never averaged more than 18.9 PPG as a Laker, but he will now be the first offensive option due to the unknown status of Kobe. On top of that, Pau will no longer have to give up his post position to the likes of Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard. Chris Kaman may play alongside Pau at times, but they seem to be meshing together well regardless.
4. Nick Young and Kobe Bryant Will Have At Least 1 “Dylan-Wyclef” Moment About Shot Selection.
Chappelle fans know what I’m talking about. Although I’m not too sure who’s Wyclef and who’s Dylan.
5. The Lakers Will Finish Higher Than 10th in Team Offense.
From the Princeton offense, to the injuries, to the lack of chemistry and shooting, the Lakers’ offense looked anemic last year (even though they finished 6th in total offense). While it can’t get much worse this season, I do like the combination of youth, athleticism, and shooting under the Mike D’Antoni’s offense, and believe they should score over 100 PPG consistently.
6. The Lakers Will Finish Lower Than 20th in Team Defense.
While the team may be able to score a lot, they will not be able to defend above-average offenses this year. The Lakers were far worse defensively without Dwight in the game last season, and now they must rely on Pau and Kaman as their rim protectors. Uh-oh.
7. The Clippers Will Sweep the Lakers in the Regular Season. Again.
After it was announced that the Clippers will be covering up the Lakers’ championship banners and retired numbers during homes games, it should be obvious that new Clippers head coach Doc Rivers wants his team to dominate their big brother in every way imaginable.
8. Nick Young Will Eclipse His Highest Single Season Scoring Average of 17.4 PPG.
There is one thing Swaggy P can do well, and that is score. He may not be very efficient, but Young can definitely get hot and when that happens, it’s HEAT CHECK TIME.
9. Pau Will Be in Trade Rumors All Year.
Another season means another year full of rumored Pau Gasol trade scenarios. Unlike past seasons, however, this season just might be the season a trade actually happens. Pau will be a free agent this summer and his skills, as well as his expiring contract, look very appealing to other teams around the league. If the Lakers can’t acquire draft picks and/or young assets for Pau, look for them to hold onto his expiring contract so they have maximum cap space for free agency next summer.
10. Kobe Will Become a Free Agent.
There are rumors going around that Kobe and the Lakers will work out a contract extension some time before he becomes a free agent next summer. Why would Kobe do that? Why wouldn’t he wait until he sees which free agents the Lakers can get and then adjust his salary to what the team has left over? It would make zero sense for a smart businessman like Kobe to blindly place his short NBA future in the hands of Jim Buss.
11. Mike D’Antoni Will Not Get Fired.
This will probably anger most of Laker Nation, but I just don’t see why the Lakers would fire D’Antoni before the season is over when the expectations are so low. Plus, D’Antoni does have a track record of bringing the best out of sub-par players through his system. Doesn’t that sound exciting?!
12. The Lakers Will Miss the Playoffs.
A lot of experts and pundits have gone on record saying the Lakers will be better than they were last year because they seem to have much better team chemistry now and they won’t have to deal with the “Dwightmare” saga. Really? So you lose arguably the best center in the NBA and you won’t have one of the greatest scorers of all-time for a quarter of the season, and you’re supposed to be better? I enjoy optimism as much as the next fan, but there is a reason Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams, Chris Kaman, Elias Harris, and Jordan Farmar were all available for next to nothing deals: BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE WANTED THEM.
13. Kobe Will Average 25+ PPG This Season.
I believe Kobe will have one goal on his mind when he returns from his Achilles injury: break the All-Time NBA Scoring Record. He is currently 6,770 points shy of tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record of 38,387 points. I can see Kobe reverting back to his 2006 season and jacking up as many shots as humanly possible, just so he can inch closer to that record and add to his legacy in case he doesn’t win another title.
14. This Team Will Be Fun to Watch.
This may sound like a negative, pessimistic, down-in-the-dumps list, and that’s because it is. Lakers fans are accustomed to being contenders year in and year out, but this year will not be one of those years. I refuse to sugar coat it for those with weak stomachs. The Lakers will not win many games, but at least they’ll be fun to watch as a typical run-n’-gun, no defense playing Mike D’Antoni team should be.