The Turbulent Pacific

Kurt —  September 29, 2006

As of next Tuesday, it is no longer the off-season — the Lakers open training camp. No trip to Hawaii for camp this year, which means new Laker Vladimir Radmanovic will not have a deep bronze tan when the season starts (instead he’ll stick with the Casper white look). How do you feel as the season opens? Optimistic? Unimpressed? Nervous? In the coming weeks we’ll be discussing all that plenty.

But first, along with camps opening comes the avalanche of preseason prognostications. Some of those have the Lakers doing well, and there will be plenty to come on this site (and a couple sites I’m affiliated with — information on those coming soon).

One of those predictions was from a blogger who knows his stuff, Tom over Sactown Royalty, who recently did a Pacific Division preview for the entertaining site The Big Lead. We can discuss the wisdom of doing previews by division when it’s conference standings that matter, but what I’d rather talk about his predicted order of finish:

1. Phoenix
2. Sacramento
3. LA Lakers
4. LA Clippers
5. Golden State

My thought, he’s got at least 2/5ths of that right. I think Phoenix is at the top — and if Amare is Amare by the end of the season they are a threat to snatch that trophy from Miami. I think Golden State is going to get better as the season wears on but in the deep West that will not be enough.

But the middle three, well that’s harder to predict. Each team has lots of questions.

How much better does Eric Musselman and a full season of Ron Artest make Sacramento? Or, do they even get a full season of Artest, who may need to promote that new album? Long-time readers here know I like Musselman — last time he took over a team they improved by 17 games over the season before. He’s not going to have that big an impact here (Sacramento isn’t going to finish with 61 wins) in part because he’s taking over for a good coach (as opposed to Golden State in 2002, when he took over for a legendary player but questionable coach). I think they are better than they were a year ago, but how much?

How much better does more Shaun Livingston make the Clippers? Can he stay healthy for a season? There aren’t a lot of other changes on the Clippers — and you know they are going to be good, but it is Livingston that could be the difference between a four-seed Clippers and a seven seed team. If he gets more time, if he can do consistently what he’s done in flashes, if he can stay healthy the Clippers become more dynamic. Especially since Sam Cassell is not getting any younger. But for all his skill there are questions about Livingston.

How much better will the Lakers be in the second year of the triangle? How much does Radmanovic improve the offense? Can they defend the high pick and roll? Phil Jackson’s teams tend to be better in their second season in the triangle, but how much growth will you really see? On Monday we’ll be discussing that more, but the questions are out there.

I think it’s hard to tell exactly how those three will finish, although if forced to guess I’d say the same order as last season (Clippers, Lakers, Kings). How healthy those teams — as well as many others in the West such as Houston, Memphis, Denver — will be a big key in how the seedings shake out, none of those teams can afford to lose many games from key players.

That’s a lot of “ifs” for everyone heading into the season. Which should make it interesting to watch.

Kurt

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12 responses to The Turbulent Pacific

  1. Quoting the Big Lead article you posted:

    ” Sacramento: Two All-Star representatives: Bibby and Artest.”

    does anyone think Artest and Bibby deserves more an All-star game than Kobe and Lamar? i’m sorry but i wouldnt even trade Lamar for Artest, no mather how good defender he is, a full focused Lamar Odom (since the Allstar break) is at least for me one of the most underrated players. leads the lakers in rebounds and assists, can shoot play the low post dish it with both hands…
    you just can love a guy like Lamar, although he need to be more of a cluch player

    i think the 2nd place in pacific division will be for either Clips or Lakers

  2. Sacramento is a wild card for me. I have no clue what to think about their upcoming season. There is this nagging feeling they’re going to be much better or much worse than folks think. Will the headlines read “Sacrament-WHOA!” or “Sacrament-NO!”? It doesn’t matter. They’ll both be terrible journalism.

    As for the Clips and Lakers, I’m going out on a limb and predict the Lakers will finish ahead of the Clips. My only reasoning being that the Lakers should benefit from Rad (a controversial point, I know) and the second year of the Tri-Force. Whereas I feel the Clippers somewhat tred water in the off season. Plus, Tim Thomas totally explodes by January destroying the Clippers clubhouse. In fact, I bet he blows his top before Mr. Artest does this season.

  3. Pacific Divison should end up like this:

    1. Suns
    2. Lakers
    3. Clipper
    4. Kings
    5. Warriors

    I think the Kings will make the playoffs but they will have to battle for it.

    Really the Clippers and the Lakers are a draw it can go either way but i’m pretty confident we’ll end up better then them this year.

    Warriors on another hand will improve but not enough.

  4. An interesting note on the Lakers vs. Clippers. The Lakers actually finished with the higher point differential, and therefore, the higher expected win mark. So it could be argued that the Lakers were the superior team last year. Only a bit of luck landed the Clippers ahead in the standings, and only the wacky playoff seeding let them get into the second round.

  5. Actually, the clippers tanked games towards the end of the season because of the quirky playoff seeding. I’d say it was pretty well established that the clippers were a better team than the lakers last year. I really don’t see how sacramento suddenly vaulted past them here. The only team legitimately better than them is Phoenix, both because they beat the clips and because a healthy amare makes them a favorite to have the best record in the NBA this year.

  6. LOL, there is no “Actually” if the Clippers were so worried about having a better record then LA then they would’ve win more games regardless if they were gonna face the Mavericks.

    they were better then us by +2 does not make any difference. stop creating excuses to make the Clippers look good cause you’re failing good.

  7. I honestly have no idea what you just said.

  8. Anyone who doesn’t understand the tanking sensation is an embarassment to themselves, their families, the Lakers, this website, just about everyone. Noone is “worried” about having a better record, only overall success matters. The chances of having greater overall success increase when you play the Nuggets in the first round with home court advantage compared to playing anyone else without homecourt advantage. Only a true Lakers homer could not understand this.

    The “strong finish” is a mirage. Except for the Lakers, Kings and Hornets, EVERY TEAM’S FATE WAS SEALED by the time April started. Yes, the Lakers beat up the Suns in April, BUT KOBE AND LAMAR STILL HAD TO PLAY 40 minutes to get it done even though Nash and Bell sat out. Try not to be as myopic as everyone acuses you of being. The”strong finish” was an illusion. Prepare to be exposed by the Suns again 10/31.

    Again, if we are arguing point differential, check the point differential in the playoff series vs Suns for each team. A nice 7-game constant I’d say. Clippers +2 for the series, Lakers, -Suck. I could make the argument that the Lakers were lucky to not be out in 5 while the Clippers were unlucky not to advance, but I won’t, because unlike many Lakers fans I don’t make my living dwelling on the past. Though if one season was a fluke, having the better record two seasons in the row is a pattern I’d say.

    Hey, only one team in LA lost to Atlanta and Charlotte, managed to lose to the Blazers more than once, and needed a heroic 80+ point effort from their superstar to sneak past the Raptors at home. Were you so confident of your precious Lakers after that offensive powerhouse Steve Blake destroyed the Lakers backcourt again and again?

    Do you not even question your faith? That is what we are talking about here faith, not logic, but faith, when just about every expert is betting against you. I know Vegas is betting against you since every sports book I visited this summer, and I have been four times, has the Lakers at longer odds than the Clippers to win the Championship. Some at significantly longer odds, despite the significantly larger fan base. I guess there is alot of noise about confidence in the Lakers, but not alot of put-up. And as we say in the reality-based community, money talks and…well this is a family site.

    Normally I don’t like to take it so specific, but foolishness I cannot abide, especially when it comes with personal affronts to those that speak the truth. Get thee back to Lakersground with the unwashed who speak of Bonzi Wells signings and trades for Garnett, Satan!

    Also training camp has started so its time for all of us to shake the dust and get back to our A games.

  9. And honestly, i have no idea why you’re trying to make excuses for the Clippers.

  10. How many games do you think they tanked, and how many points do you think it cost them?

    Their last five games:
    W Portland 97-93
    W Seattle 101-97
    L Seattle 98-114
    L Memphis 95-101
    W Dallas 85-71

    It look like they only tanked two games. And the Memphis loss is not so great that it couldn’t have happened without them trying to lose. And then Dallas tanked against them in the last game, giving them +14 points, which makes up for most of the tanking they did previously.

    So at the end of the season, the Lakers had scored 205 more points then they allowed. The Clippers scored 138 more points than they allowed. That’s a difference of 67 points.

    Of course, you can’t take these numbers completley at face value. There are differences in garbage time, and different schedules, and teams tanking at the end of the year. But it suggests that the two teams were at least pretty similar. And then they both lost to the Suns in 7 games.

  11. John R, get the heck out of here.

  12. Moved to LA last summer and watched a ton of Lakers and Clippers-tho am a Rockets fan.
    From my couch the Clippers clearly have better overall talent,play slightly better D and are more unselfish as a team.(Brand and Kaman are far better than Kwame and Mihm,just as Lamar and Kobe are far superior to Mobley and Thomas(or Ross),w/Cassell’s experience and b***s giving the Clips a marginal edge at starters.But Clipper bench w/Maggette,Livinston and Ross/Thomas overwhelms Radmanavich and co.)
    The Clippers problem is chemistry. They need Cassell to stay healthy all season,Livinston to blossom,Thomas to get thru the season and esp they need Maggette to forget he was the go-to guy on the team and to accept being a sub.They need to sign Dunleavy to keep team in his control or if they start to believe he’s a lame duck the lockerroom will become poisonous and affect court performance.
    Sacremento is a wildcard,but the ongoing fight over a new arena may have an unexpected effect in limiting much of the Kings’ normal home-court edge.
    I think Phil waiting til now for his hip surgery is going to cost the Lakers a few games and who knows how vital those games may be.
    I think the Suns are more vulnerable than everyone thinks. I seriously doubt Stoudemire will be close to 100% at any point this season,Marion is reportedly disgruntled and knows the Suns were willing to trade him,the old management team is gone,other teams esp in West have made roster changes to match them and Nash has played alot of minutes the last couple of yrs.
    The comment about rankings based on Div is of little use should remind us that whatever team we root for,they are actually playing for 1 of 6 spots,as Divisional winners are in automatically.