Hello there, Pounders. It has been a while, indeed. I thought it would be fun to make a few wild predictions while not much is going on; so if the outlandish strikes your fancy, please jump with me.
Wild Prediction #1: The Lakers will lose in the first round of the playoffs.
I've spent most of the off-season attempting to convince myself that the Lakers will not be as good as their roster indicates. To me, there's just too much that has to go right for them to survive the 82 game season and make a deep run into the playoffs.
First, their coach is Mike Brown. Obviously, he leaves much to be desired. X's and O's have never been his thing. He's not a guy that one would describe as articulate. He's not a guy that players seem to respect or enjoy playing for. He's simply a very bad coach that has found a way to lose regardless of the talent that his front office has surrounded him with throughout his entire career. Many coaches get their achievements minimized because they won with great teams. Phil had the Bulls and the great Shaq/Kobe teams followed by the Bynum/Gasol/Kobe squads. Pop has always had Tim and our legendary supporting casts. That's my list, but you know what I mean. There's always a lot of, "Anyone could have won with those guys." Not anyone. Mike Brown couldn't do it and I think he will prove once again that great teams need a great coach.
Gasol, Artest, Bryant, Jamison and Nash: 32.2, 32.8, 34, 36.2, and 38.6 years of age, respectively. What are the odds that each of these players suits up for 60 games? One of them is going down, right? You can't suit up that many old guys, play them the ridiculous minutes that you know Mike Brown will play them, and not have one devastating injury. The Lakers should trade Mike Brown and cash considerations for Phoenix's training staff.
In addition, Dwight, while only being 26 years old, just had surgery to repair a herniated disk and remove some fragments. This has been greatly underplayed by the national media but I think it will become a story. Remember David Robinson in his prime? Remember his body and how fluidly he moved? He had two herniated disks repaired and returned to the NBA a shadow of his former self. Injuries to the back are awful. I tore a muscle in my back playing ball in high school. It feels like you are in a strait-jacket. It's weird. It feels like someone is holding you down and if you try to break free, your body responds with shooting pain. That's the way David finished his career. He was a true professional and fought through it to win with Tim, but you could see his body simply wasn't capable of performing anywhere close to its former level. I'm not saying Dwight will be limited to the same degree, but it's not as easy as resting a fractured ankle. The back has a memory to it and if you tweak it the wrong way, it will remind you about it for life.
Basically, I think there are just too many injury risks on this team to take it too seriously. If we fast-forward time and the Lakers are healthy entering playoffs, then I'll be worried. Until then, I'll put my Laker anxiety on hold.
Wild Prediction #2: Tony Parker gets traded.
One can only look the other way for so long. I'm done with Tony. In my opinion, the guy is, at best, incredibly immature. Play this game with me. Let's pretend JR Smith and Tony Parker came out the same year, (JR was born in '85 and Tony in '82). If we had drafted JR Smith and Tony ended up with JR's NBA teams, how different would their reputations be at this point? How would each have turned out? JR would have been mentored by Tim and Manu while Tony would be free to be the real Tony. I'd bet JR's career would be entirely different, obviously for the better. Realize that Tony has played for one of the most professional franchises in the world and has been surrounded by some of the highest character guys the league has to offer. Yet, he still managed to sext Brent Barry's wife and then get his eye stabbed in a bar fight between Drake and Chris Brown.
The Spurs have to be sick of it. A lot gets made of how Pop badgered Tony his entire rookie year. Ever think that maybe Tony had it coming? Pop hasn't treated anyone like that since. Not coincidentally, Pop hasn't had anyone as immature as Tony to deal with since. If something happens and the Spurs season does not go as planned, look for the Spurs to trade Tony. He will be the first on the trading block. He's probably already there.
Wild Prediction #3: Lebron's big head snaps his poor headband during a game
Lebron has a big head, both figuratively and literally. The headbands keep getting wider. Headbands were not built to handle this kind of strain. At some point, the headband will have had enough and pop like a balloon filled with too much hot air. This isn't as wild as the others. It's just good science.
Wild Prediction #4: Manu makes his last All-Star appearance
I was supposed to cover the USA basketball team for you. My apologies that I left you hanging. Aaron Preine filled in but I should have been there to help carry the load. I tried to watch them. I couldn't. It was just too painful. Here's the only thing I wrote about the USA team. After writing this, I quit.
Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Deron Williams, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and The Unibrow led by Mike Krzyzewski and Mike D'Antoni. You're probably thinking the same thing I am: What's to like? Nothing. Watching the USA team play is a lot like watching the Heat for me, except I severely dislike, (let's go with hate), a higher percentage of the USA team. It's a lot of one-on-one basketball and egregious fouling that doesn't get called. At first I just assumed that basketball had shifted to what I witnessed in the WCF and Finals, but apparently FIBA is supposed to be like this. At least their audience knows what to expect. Having the officials call the game one way for the entire regular season and the majority of the playoffs just to have them swallow their whistles when it mattered most was a very unpleasant experience for me. But I digress, back to the game. Lebron bullied a lot of people, as he is prone to do. He runs everyone over and yet always gets the call. He never gets called for charging and almost always gets the 50/50 whistle. I don't understand why it happens so consistently. He initiates the contact without consequence, so his game has evolved into the ugly thing that I just forced myself to watch. He drives to the bucket with no regard for defenders. He doesn't have to be graceful because any contact he creates is rewarded. Yuck. Team USA bothers my soul.
Back to Manu. I did watch many of Argentina's games. It was refreshing. It was a true team fighting age with each drive to the basket and dive to the floor. Unfortunately, age doesn't lose often. But Manu was great. He played at an All-Star level and was the only reason Argentina could even hope for a medal. Every team focused on Manu because he was their only elite player. He was getting held and shoved every minute he played yet never gave in and kept attacking until the final score ended his team's run. I think this last run at a medal may push him into another gear in hopes of winning one more trophy with the Spurs. I hope his body cooperates. If it does, he'll be an All-Star. No one deserves it more.