Happy (belated) New Year everyone!! 2011 was an interesting year in Southern California sports, but 2012 could end up being one of the greatest years for Los Angeles sports in history . . . and it’s a good thing too, the world is ending this year. 🙂
From the very possible return of the National Football League to Albert Pujols in Anaheim to Matt Barkley’s senior season at USC, 2012 could end up being a very special year for Southern California sports fans. Let’s take a look at each team in Southern California and our beloved Los Angeles Rams below the jump:
National Basketball Association: Professional basketball returned this past Christmas and there are legitimate reasons to be excited about BOTH Los Angeles area teams. The Los Angeles Lakers are, well, the Lakers and will always be one of the elite teams in the NBA no matter how hot or cold they start the season. Because of that simple fact, the Lakers will always be an exciting team to watch and will always be a legitimate title contender. The Los Angeles Clippers, on the other hand, have always been the butt of many jokes in the city of Angels but they deserve to be taken seriously for the first time in franchise history. With the acquisition of Chris Paul, the Clippers become an instant contender and could easily make some noise in the postseason. Also, both teams could develop a bit of a rivalry which will cause some more excitement in the L.A. sports scene. Also, let’s not forget that Anaheim is still in the running to land a third NBA team for the area.
National Hockey League: Actually, there is not a whole lot of excitement surrounding the local teams. The Los Angeles Kings are not living up to the high expectations and fired their coach because of it. The Kings, however, are on a path to the postseason with their new head coach and could make some noise if they start to click. Words cannot describe how disappointing this season has been for the Anaheim Ducks, but new coach Bruce Boudreau and a possible lottery pick could help the Ducks add to what is, on paper, a very good team.
USC and UCLA: Matt Barkley is back, making most USC Trojan fans as giddy as a school girl. With Barkley returning, USC could very easily be in the national championship conversation and will at least be playing for a berth to the Rose Bowl partially thanks to the incredibly weak Pac-12 south. Chances are, the second Pac-12 championship game will involve USC and whoever wins the Pac-12 north division. UCLA, on the other hand, has some hope with a new coach and it’ll be interesting to see if Jim Mora, Jr can change the culture of mediocrity in Westwood and challenge USC for LA dominance. How about Pac-12 hoops? Well, let’s not talk about that.
Major League Baseball: Baseball fans in the area should be incredibly excited for the upcoming season for good reason. The Los Angeles Dodgers will probably not compete for a playoff spot (although the NL West is not particularly strong and LA could make some noise), but with Frank McCourt leaving there should be quite a bit of excitement and hope for the future. After missing the postseason two years in a row for the first time since 2000-2001, the Los Angeles Angels responded by shocking the baseball world and signing former St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols and Texas Ranger C.J. Wilson. These moves make the Angels one of the best teams in the American League and the hands-down favorite to take the A.L. West in 2012. Angels owner Arte Moreno made it clear this offseason that it is World Series or bust.
National Football League: Speaking of taking Albert Pujols from St. Louis in 2011, hopefully that is just a warm up for what is coming in 2012. In February, the St. Louis CVC has to make a proposal to Rams owner Stan Kroenke on how to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome to bring it up to modern NFL standards. That is impossible. Kroenke did not get where he is today by being stupid and will recognize that he is not going to get a publicly financed stadium on par with Jerry Jones’ Cowboys Stadium in St. Louis. He can get just that in Los Angeles from either AEG in downtown or Ed Roski in Industry and I expect the Rams to be back in Los Angeles in the next few years. At this point, I am not 100% sure that the Rams will be back in time for the 2012 season, but I would say that there is a 50-60% chance that they are back this year and 40-50% chance that they are back in time for the 2013 season.
Predictions: I am going to go out on a limb and say that there will be 2 championships by Southern California teams in the 2012 calendar year, 3 division/conference championships, and the return of the Los Angeles Rams. Happy 2012 everyone!