Taking trips down memory lane is fun, especially with the internet. In the past, you could make predictions, and no one would ever call you on it. Nowadays, you can look it up and see what silly things people had to say. Hindsight is more than 20/20.
2007-08 Prediction: 43-39, 2nd in Pacific, 7th in Western Conference
Hollinger sez: "...this makes the Lakers one of the easiest teams to forecast. They can't possibly be under .500 with Kobe on the team, but they can't possibly win more than 50 games with the crew around him and the wacky front office. So look for things to turn out like they did last season, with the Lakers bowing out meekly in the first round of the playoffs. And when it ends, expect Kobe to turn up the volume on his trade chatter considerably."
What really happened: 57-25, 1st in Pacific Division, 1st in Western Conference
Well, that "wacky front office" turned out to be the only sane ones in the thunderstorm. Mitch Kupchak held tight through Kobe's demands, and weaseled Pau Gasol from the Grizz for Kwame Brown and Pau's brother. We're now seeing that Marc Gasol can actually play, so Chris Wallace at least got a quarter for his dollar. Speaking of Mitch, how often do we hear the owner say that he has complete trust in his GM, only to have the GM fired at the end of the season? Jerry Buss showed his integrity as an owner. The Lakers went on to the Finals and lost to the Celtics, who bullied the Lakers to win in six. Kobe muted his trade chatter completely.
2008-09 Prediction: 57-25, 1st in Pacific Division, 2nd in Western Conference
Hollinger sez: "Kobe. It's become passe to say he's the best player in the league; certainly he's been on the short list for the past half-decade. He's also 30 and has more mileage on his legs than any other 30-year-old in history, which might not be a concern except that his numbers have dropped fairly sharply each of the past two seasons. The fact that he's trying to play out the entire season with a wounded finger makes me think this isn't the year he breaks the streak. My projection system has his PER at 23.83 -- that's without putting my thumb on the scale for the factors mentioned above -- and while that's still awesome, it also would continue the downward trend (28.11, 26.13, 24.31) since age 27... All that gives the Lakers a better best-case scenario than anyone in the league. But they have to answer a lot of question marks in order to pull that off. And when I look at what's probable, rather than merely what's possible, L.A. comes out second in an airtight three-way race for the West's top record."
What really happened: 65-17, 1st in Pacific Division, 1st in Western Conference
What, did Hollinger just copy last year's record and make it this year's prediction? How unimaginative. Reports of Kobe's decline turned out to be greatly exaggerated. No, the Lakers didn't finish second in the West, but they did finish second to the Cavs for the best record. Fortunately, the Cavs lost to the Magic, and the Lakers got homecourt for the Finals, and the ring was theirs.
2009-10 Prediction: 65-17, first in Pacific Division, first in Western Conference
Hollinger sez:"For a second year in a row, the Lakers also may benefit from their Finals opponent. Last season they got a break with a Jameer Nelson being hampered for Orlando, after he was one of many quick point guards who riddled the Lakers' defense in the regular season. This time around they may benefit again -- Nelson is back, but I'm projecting Cleveland to meet L.A. in the Finals. With Artest in tow, the Lakers couldn't possibly match up better against the Cavs, which means Phil Jackson may be able to break out his "XI" hat next June."
I'm sensing a trend here. 65-17 last year, this year's prediction 65-17. Can the Lakers beat the forecast for a third straight year? Is it a bad sign that Hollinger's machine finally predicts a title for the Lakers? Stay tuned ... same bat time, same bat channel!
And no, I don't think I could do any better. Then again, I don't put out "forecasts" and predictions. At least ones that are this specific.