Sorry, Lakers Fans: No Playoffs
While many of the prognosticators and prediction makers in the sports world are wrong most of the time, I have to say that the biggest failed prediction of 2012 is the fact that we’re still here! There was no doomsday occurrence at the end of the Mayan calendar, and now we all get to welcome 2013 and see what another year has in store for us. I’m very thankful for that fact, because it should be a pretty fantastic year in sports.
So in the spirit of looking ahead and not backward, here are a couple of my predictions for what’s to come in 2013:
The Los Angeles Lakers will not make the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
For many of you reading this, and for the Lakers organization itself, this is probably akin to the world ending. They put together a dream team. They brought in the league’s best big man and one of its best point guards ever. Everyone – including me – bought into it. Then we watched them play. The Lakers, who I predicted to win the NBA championship, are just not that good. No, we haven’t seen them at the peak of their powers with everyone 100 percent healthy, but they’ve already dug themselves quite a hole. After a comeback overtime win over the Golden State Warriors, which feels like a possible turning point for the team, the Lakers sit at 13-14 on the season and have won four straight.
I’m here to tell you that it’s still a long shot for L.A. to squeeze itself back into playoff relevance. Based on the past five years or so, it takes about 48 wins (in an 82-game schedule) just to make the playoffs out of the Western Conference. That means that the Lakers will have to go 35-20 the rest of the season just to nab the 8-seed. That’s a .636 win percentage, which is not an easy task over a long stretch. Just five teams finished the year with that win percentage or better last season. So while it’s not impossible, the Lakers will have to play much better than they have shown thus far, all while going against a much-improved Western Conference.
There will be a 2013 NHL hockey season. Following the Lakers is a tough task, especially if I’m mentioning hockey, so I’ll make this short and sweet. There will be a season, because while he’s a terrible commissioner in general, Gary Bettman isn’t downright stupid. He knows what a missed season would cost, so he’ll follow the NBA blueprint of last season’s lockout and bring back the players for a compressed schedule and hope to get the same type of buzz and entertainment from it that his basketball brethren did.
(An aside: I really hope all the major sports commissioners make some serious New Year’s resolutions because they have been, in a word, awful in 2012. We expect and should demand more of them. David Stern gave us lockout basketball, which was fun, but certainly unfair to the players. He vetoed a perfectly legitimate Chris Paul trade to the Lakers, while acting as a part-owner of one of the teams involved. He fined the San Antonio Spurs a cool $250K for resting a few of their players, a penalty that seems to have been prompted solely by the fact that they were playing in Miami on national TV. NFL commish Roger Goodell has embarrassed himself in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, singlehandedly ruining a team’s season from the outset, sticking to some unfounded assertions and ultimately having the former commissioner come in and basically repeal all his punishments.
Bettman continues to draw – and deserve – the ire of hockey fans with this lockout mess, just when the league was taking off again. Baseball commish Bud Selig … actually, Selig didn’t do anything all that dumb this year. I enjoyed the new wild-card play-in games. (Good on ya, Bud!)
Now a few quick-hitters to keep in mind throughout the year:
Manny Pacquiao will fight two times in 2013 and then retire. Pac-Man will avenge his loss to Timothy Bradley with a decision victory, then take on Juan Manuel Marquez for the fifth time as his final career bout.
The Baltimore Orioles will win fewer than 81 games. Baltimore went 93-69 last year and made the playoffs, but their record will be under .500 this year. Why? One word: regression.
The Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl. The road to New Orleans might not go through the Mile High City, but Peyton Manning will take the league’s most complete team to the promised land, making linebacker Von Miller a household name in the process.
The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team will qualify for the 2014 World Cup. They have appeared scattered but put together some very strong halves late in the year. They’ll squeak in.
Tiger Woods will win one major this year. He’s not the same physically, but Tiger has Kobe-like competitiveness and will tweak his game enough to capture his 15th major championship – his first since 2008.
Manti Te’o will wind up with the Jacksonville Jaguars – along with Tim Tebow. The Heisman runner-up (Hey, I got that one right!) will help usher in a new era in Jacksonville as a very early pick by the Jags, which also will bring two-time Heisman winner Tebow back to the Sunshine State.
I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year! Get excited for everything 2013 has in store!