In seasons past, this super-clever saying almost always summed up the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans -- superstar players and championship aspirations aplenty. This season is different. One might be more inclined to say, "The future's so hazy, we have to wear ultra-thick Coke-bottle glasses because we are legally blind."
The beginning of every season is where everyone -- from the teams to the media to casual fans -- makes predictions about how teams are going to do.
In general, people are terrible at making predictions. That's why gambling is such a lucrative business for the people not gambling. Men and women date each other recklessly predicting a successful relationship and more often than not everything goes to crap.
When it comes to teams, whether you're using your gut-feel or advanced mathematical equations, no amount of basketball knowledge can factor in all of the variables of any given season -- player development, player deterioration, free agents acclimating, injuries, personal problems and trades. So, predictions involve a lot of guesswork.
Some things in basketball are easy to predict. When Mike Brown was hired to coach the Lakers, most people thought it would end badly since it seemed like his best skill as a head coach was having LeBron James on his team. That's a skill that's difficult to replicate on a new team.
Also, it was easy to predict something like Dwight Howard choosing to leave the team. Just based on his odd behavior in small-market Orlando, it seemed like L.A. would never be a good fit for him.
In 2008, the Lakers looked like a run-of-the-mill team and then they traded for Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies and were almost immediately the team to beat in the Western Conference -- making it to the Finals three years in a row and winning two championships. Before that trade, you would have been a fool to predict that.
Let's take a look at some bold predictions for the Lakers' 2013-2014 season:
The Lakers Won't Make the Playoffs
Most experts and analysts outside of Los Angeles have them missing out on postseason play or barely making the eighth seed. ESPN even has them finishing 12th in the West -- which is purported to be the inspiration for the first two digits in the "1225" icon on Kobe Bryant's Twitter account.
Even when Kobe Bryant comes back, they just don't have many good players on the team. To make the playoffs in the West, you need more than just three excellent players. Admittedly, this isn't really that bold of a prediction; however, since I live in Los Angeles, this is death-defyingly bold.
Pau Gasol Will Be Dominant
Pau's already one of the best big men in the league, but now he doesn't have to share the paint with Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum. He shaved off his old beard and is now sporting a tighter, cleaner beard more befitting a potential league MVP.
Factoring in that Kobe Bryant will miss the early part of the season and Steve Nash will be running the show, everything is lining up for Pau Gasol to have a monster year.
And Pau Will Get Traded
He's in the last year of his deal and he's one of the best 15 players in the league. This Lakers team may not have a clear vision of where they're headed, but it does seem that Gasol is not part of the plan.
Sure, he helped them win two championships, but he could be bring an impressive return to the Lakers to help them build for the future and, in the process, seriously swing the balance of power in this year's playoffs.
Steve Nash Will Get Injured
I know, I know. The sun will rise. The freeways will have traffic. There will be another Die Hard sequel. Few things in life are as certain as Nash getting injured, but what I'm predicting is that when he falls, Jordan Farmar will rise.
Farmar is positioned to have a breakout season in his return to the purple and gold. He showed signs in his last year in New Jersey and in the European league that he's improved his shot selection, and he's got his 3-point average at the magic 40% number that makes him a real threat all over the court.
New Kobe Won't Be an Old Kobe
Tearing an Achilles tendon would signify the end of a career for most NBA players. But Kobe Bryant isn't anything like "most NBA players." Sure, he's human (most likely). But there's no player since Jordan who cares more about winning and being the best than him.
For everything that people hate about him -- which I wrote about last week -- no one can debate his work ethic. He's going to come back a smarter Kobe. This time, I think he'll dial back the minutes per game and let Nash (or Farmar) run the team.
The league is a better place with Kobe in it -- whether it's as a villain or as a suddenly sympathetic veteran holding on for one last shot at glory.
These are my predictions for this year's Lakers. But essentially they're just guesses -- based on what's now known. If your predictions for the season are different than mine, just keep in mind that they're all just guesses and also that yours are wrong.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can discuss sports and pop culture with him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Kobe Bryant
- Pau Gasol
- Los Angeles
- Steve Nash