73 wins for the Lakers? Let’s get serious
Seven down, 75 to go …
With the Lakers 7-0 after walking on the Portland Trail Blazers, a real team that won 50 games last season, as if they were Warriors or D-Fenders, I guess we can dispense with the Stumbling Start after Bust Training Camp With Everyone Hurt scenario.
How about the First Perfect Season?
No, really. As things now stand, the Lakers might be betting underdogs three times all season — at Miami, Boston and Orlando.
OK, let’s get serious, more or less.
How about beating the Bulls’ record of 72 wins?
ESPN.com still has its “Chase for 72” feature, with a little picture of Michael Jordan and these words: “How historically great can the Heat be? Can they match M.J.'s ’95-96 Bulls?”
Actually, Miami is off to a historically insignificant 4-2 start.
At 4-1, ESPN actually gave the Heat a 3.8% chance to win 72, but the feature hasn’t been updated since Friday’s loss in New Orleans.
Unfortunately, the multitentacled entertainment company hasn’t (yet) opened a betting parlor in Las Vegas so you could take those odds. Otherwise, they’d be holding the papers on my house.
Since Lakers fans deserve an update on their team’s chances — now far better than Miami’s since they only have to finish 65-10 — here it is:
Here’s my methodology: I take the hype from their 21-3 and 23-4 starts the last two seasons and note their win total at the end, 65 and 57, respectively.
Then I multiply by Coach Phil Jackson’s inclination to push them — zero — and come up with zero!
(If you disagree vehemently, I’d be happy to open a book in Las Vegas and give any odds you’d like.)
Of course, that 72-10 season wasn’t just M.J.'s, but Jackson’s, although it’s nothing Phil expects another of his teams to do …
Especially this one.
“In ’92 after [Chicago’s] first championship, I think we were 45-3, 43-6, something like that, after the All-Star break [actually 42-9],” Jackson said.
“And the owner [Jerry Reinsdorf] called me up and said, ‘I hope you’re not trying to win the most games ever.’
“That team ended up winning 67. They had a little letdown at the end …
“You get a feeling, like teams know how to win games. They know how to turn it on at the end. They know how to expend the right amount of energy to win the ballgame — and that really happened with that [1995-96] team …
“They could really shut people down at a certain period of time in a game.”
Could these Lakers do it?
“Not the same defense,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, we have a lot of offensive prowess. The defense isn’t quite the same.”
Try to contain your disappointment. Coming off two long title runs, yet to finish a season with their whole team healthy, pushing that hard is not on the Lakers’ agenda.
The trick is to play hard enough to play well enough to win the West.
At the moment, it’s best to stay out of their way.
The Trail Blazers, who drew the short straw Sunday, are down two seven-footers: Greg Oden, who still carries their title hopes on his broad back and question-mark knees, and Joel Przybilla.
With all their players, the Trail Blazers are huge, but it’s been a while.
“Yeah, we were,” Coach Nate McMillan said before the game, laughing, “And it seems we just continue to get shorter.”
Indeed, backup center Jeff Pendergraph was lost in camp. Fabricio Oberto made it to the regular season but just retired because of a heart condition.
“We feel it’s going to get better,” McMillan said. “We just have to continue to work and when opportunities present themselves, guys have to step up.”
That’s after getting the heck away from the Lakers before someone got stepped on.