The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Lakers’ season not so bright

As the 2006-2007 NBA season prepares to get underway, one of the questions among Laker fans here in Los Angeles is how will the Lakers recover from last year’s crushing collapse at the end of last year in which they blew a 3-1 best-of-seven series lead to the Phoenix Suns, preventing the much-anticipated battle of Los Angeles between the Lakers and the Clippers.

Well, I’m here to tell you that while I expect the Lakers to be competitive, I’m not expecting them to challenge the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat for the NBA championship, certainly not this season. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers missed the playoffs altogether, and the reason is that there are simply too many question marks surrounding this current Laker team.

We’ll start with Kobe Bryant. Kobe is coming off off-season knee surgery and his status for opening night is still up in the air. While Kobe will do anything and everything to make sure he gets back on the court and become his old dominating self, this is knee surgery we are talking about, which obviously requires a little more time to heal because of the pressure and demands athletes put on them. If you don’t believe me, just look at Phoenix Suns star center Amare Stoudemire, whose recovery from operation on both his knees last year has taken much longer than he had hoped.

Lamar Odom had a nice second half of the season as well as a solid playoff performance against Phoenix and should be able to assert himself as the Lakers’ No. 2 scorer now that he has had a chance to fully grip the triangle offense.

But after those two, there’s not much else to get excited about. Vladimir Radmanovic was a nice addition to the roster, as his shooting will open up the inside for guys like Kobe and Odom, but everything else is suspect.

It is already bad enough the Lakers will start the season without its two centers, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm, both of whom are nursing major injuries that will keep them out for a significant amount of time. That will leave 19-year-old Andrew Bynum as the Lakers’ starting center against the Suns on Halloween night, and while Bynum did play solidly in the pre-season, there is a difference between playing in exhibition games and playing in games that really do matter, no matter how early it is in the season. Bynum will have to prove himself when the games matter, as will rookie guard Jordan Farmar and Ronny Turiaf, who remarkably saw time last year following open-heart surgery.

The rest of the roster is surrounded by many question marks. Smush Parker and Luke Walton are decent role-players, but nothing more. Guys like Brian Cook, Maurice Evans, Devin Green, Sasha Vujacic and Shammond Williams are average at best and the only reason Aaron McKie is on the roster is because his contract runs out at the end of this year and the Lakers need as much salary cap space as possible to be able to improve their roster in the future.

Then there is the fact that the Lakers are in the Western Conference, which has gotten better this season. Dallas and San Antonio will be their usual selves, the Clippers got better just by keeping everybody and Phoenix will be a huge threat, provided Stoudemire’s knees hold up. A healthy Houston Rockets squad should make it back to the playoffs now that its two stars, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, are healthy and added Bonzi Wells to the mix. New Orleans will be a threat as long as they have Chris Paul starting at point guard alongside newcomers Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler and Bobby Jackson. Utah will also challenge for the final playoff spots in the West as long as they have Andrei Kirilenko, Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, Matt Harpring, Carlos Boozer and former Laker Derek Fisher as well as Denver, Memphis and Sacramento.

Now, there is some hope for the Lakers. Fifteen of their first 20 games are at home and most of those 20 games will be against beatable teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzles, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trailblazers, Seattle Supersonics and Toronto Raptors. This makes it crucial that the Lakers get off to a good start during the first two months of the season, because after their first 20 games, nine of their next 12 games are on the road, including games against teams like Dallas, Houston, the Chicago Bulls and the defending champion Miami Heat on Christmas. Get off to a bad start and the season could be on the brink.

But simply put, don’t expect too much from the Lakers in 2006-2007 (but hey, the way my baseball playoff predictions went, this story could end up being a good thing for the Lakers.)

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